If a Vietnam veteran died as a result of wounds received during service, they are memorialized on a wall in Washington DC. If a service member died later because of complications related to Agent Orange or PTSD, they are not eligible for inclusion on the wall.
The “In Memory” program is designed to honor those vets such as Clynton Randolf Bassett of Sacramento. After Bassett’s death from Agent Orange related illnesses, his sister, Barbara Bassett, submitted his name for the online memorial.
“His entire life was changed by his service in Vietnam and unfortunately when they came home they didn’t get anything,” says Barbara. “When he died, I made sure he got a military burial and I’m making sure that he’ll be remembered long after I’m gone.”
The VA hospital confirmed Clynton died from health complications due to Agent Orange. He had diabetes, heart disease and early-onset Alzheimer's. He died of a sudden heart attack in 2015.
Heidi Zimmerman works for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit that founded the Wall in 1982.
“Back in 1982 - no one knew Vietnam veterans were going to continue to die of Vietnam-related causes,” says Zimmerman.
That’s the reason why the VVMF went on to start the “In Memory” program in 1999.
There’s an “In Memory” plaque on the National Mall, it reads: “In Memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”
“People aren’t aware anymore, and I don’t think they were aware then, the things that the government asked them to do in Vietnam directly related to their health,” says Barbara. “They did it out of service for their country, and… it’s something that should be remembered.”
Barbara chokes up when she talks about her brother and his life after the war.
“It’s a sad thing, and no one should ever have to go through what the soldiers go through when they come home and I’m hoping that by having ceremonies like this and raising awareness that we’ll treat our soldiers better.”
Barbara’s brother, Clynton, is one of 312 servicemembers being honored in June. His name will be added to the online memorial, along with eight veterans from Northern California. Dennis Eugene Drebert from Woodland, served in the Marine Corps and the Navy, will also be honored next month.