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Names Added to Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Beth Cullom finds the name of a family friend, John Barovetto, who was killed in Vietnam, 31 May 2010

The U.S. National Park Service and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund say six names have been added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, bringing the total number of names on the wall to 58,267. These additions were recognized officially during Monday's annual Memorial Day Observance at the memorial wall.

A woman named Beth Cullom is flipping through a register to find the name of a young man she knew in the 1960s. Here is the story, in Cullom's own words.

"His name is John Barovetto, and uhm, where is he? B-a-r-o-v-e-t-t-o. He's from Davis, California. ...A rugby player of my dad's," she said. "My dad was a combat Marine in Korea and WWII, and he was a rugby coach and a football coach at the University of California. The 1960s was really not a troop-friendly kind of place, and this young man went to join the Army and he went to war. And people, well-meaning people, would send him the Daily Californian [newspaper] and stuff like that and he'd find out about all the protests and the riots, and it was really demoralizing. And he would write to my dad," said Cullom.

"I have some of his letters that he wrote to my dad thanking my dad for . . it was sort of a combat-to-combat, different, Korea-to-Vietnam, sort of thing. And then he came home from his first tour and before he went up home to Davis, he came to dinner and my mom fixed a roast, prime rib and all that kind of stuff, and it was really nice. And he had these jewels, well he thought they were black pearls, and he told his mom when he got home, he said, "Send those pearls to Mrs. Cullom and her daughter." I was 16, no 15," she said.

And anyway he went back for a second tour and he was killed. And his mom sent this little box and it said 'John's Black Pearls.' And when I turned 16, I had it made into a ring and we discovered it was actually a star sapphire and not a black pearl. I've used his letters to my dad to understand my own childhood because even though I'm old enough - if I was a guy, I could have been in Vietnam - but in 1968, 1969, during the Tet Offensive and all that, I was in high school. And you're trying to deal with, 'Oh, my gosh, there's the war, and this friend of our family has been killed,' or 'Do I want to go to the prom?'"she

And then, walking with my Marine father, wounded Marine, that's why he wasn't active duty, walking with him, and here he's a football coach at Cal [University of California], so if we go to an athletic event, there would be people painting their [protest] signs over in a corner of the parking lot or something and I'd be walking along and I'd be thinking that it was my job to protect my dad from the protesters. Which, if my dad was alive today, he'd go, 'You've got to be kidding me. Your job was not to protect the Marines. Our job was to protect you.' I think that that is my job - to support our troops," said Cullom.