MONTICELLO – Monticello native Wesley Stiverson is being honored on Memorial Day in Washington, D.C., as his name and the names of two other soldiers are unveiled as the newest additions to the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
SP4 Stiverson, who was drafted into the Army in 1970, two years after graduating from Monticello High School, served in Vietnam until April 6, 1971, when his unit came under fire. A mortar shell exploded, and fragments caused penetrating wounds to his head, his right hand and right thigh. Although he survived, his injuries were so severe that he was unable to care for himself and he spent the remainder of his life – more than 32 years – at Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System in Danville. He died on March 30, 2005, at the age of 54.
Wesley Stiverson's surviving brother, Jack Stiverson of Monticello, became committed to getting his brother's name on the national Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington and on the state memorial in Springfield.
With the help of three nephews, their wives and other close family members, medical and military records were collected and sent to the Pentagon to prove Wesley Stiverson's death resulted from war injuries. The final ruling came from the Department of Defense after the surgeon general reviewed the medical records.
"He just wasn't the same" after the injuries, Jack Stiverson said of his brother. "He wasn't the same person. He couldn't work, and he didn't have a whole lot to do either. It was pretty tough."
Wesley Stiverson received full military rites at his funeral service and burial in the Monticello Cemetery in 2005.
This Sunday, Jack Stiverson and nephews Eric Stiverson of Monticello and Chris Stiverson of Champaign, their wives and families and Stiverson's sister-in-law, Carol Stiverson, and her mother, Therese Schneider, plan to be at the Vietnam War Memorial in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery for a ceremony in which the name will be unveiled.
The entire family, including a third nephew from California and his family, plans to travel to Washington, D.C., for the Memorial Day ceremony at the wall as well.
The names are being added to the wall this week by stonecarvers, according to Lisa Gough of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
In addition to Wesley Stiverson, the men being added to the national wall are Army Sgt. Richard M. Pruett of Sherman, Texas, who died in 2005 from complications related to wounds he received during the war, and Navy Fireman Apprentice Joseph Gerald Krywicki of Holton, Mich.
Krywicki was killed in 1966 in Vietnam when a member of his unit accidentally discharged his rifle. The Navy initially declined to add Krywicki's name to the memorial because he died not in combat but in a "friendly fire" incident. The Navy reversed course following inquiries from his family.
Since the memorial was dedicated in 1982, a few names have been added each year, said Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Engraving each new name, he said, is a painstaking and meticulous process. The stonecarvers take great care to get the new name to match the depth, within one-thousandth of an inch, of the names already on the wall.
The names of Americans killed or missing in Vietnam are listed on the wall by date of casualty. The new names are being added to panels of the wall that are closest to the dates that the men were wounded, in keeping with the vision of memorial designer Maya Lin.
Associated Press reports were used in this story.