Watch: Hayes staff member reads service members' names on Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

In honor of the 35th anniversary of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., people from across the country read the names of service members memorialized on the monument.

Julie Mayle, Hayes Presidential Library & Museums associate curator of manuscripts, read some of the names on Friday, Nov. 10. Mayle also coordinates HPLM's Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project. where she interviews veterans or their families about their experience and scans their letters, documents and photos.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund selected Mayle and the other readers to read the more than 58,000 names of those on the wall. The reading took several days and coincided with Veterans Day, which was Nov. 11.

One of the names Mayle read was Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith, who was a member of her father’s Marine Corps unit. Keith was killed in action on May 8, 1970, and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Congressional Medial of Honor.

Afterward, she left a photo of praying hands next to his name on the wall. 

Mayle shares her thoughts on the experience and explains why the Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project is special to her: 

My interest in military veterans was sparked in 2008 while interning in the Manuscripts Department at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums.

I was given the opportunity to create a collection comprised of my father’s letters, photographs and other memorabilia that he had kept from his service in Vietnam with the Marine Corps.

While processing the material, I discovered a cassette tape that he recorded while stationed in the village of An Diem Hai, South Vietnam. The recording took place almost one month after his platoon was overrun with an estimated 150 Viet Cong soldiers. During the fight, a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Miguel Keith, was mortally wounded while defending the compound. 

Lance Cpl. Keith became the 53rd Marine to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in Vietnam due to his heroic action on May 8, 1970. Hearing my dad’s voice at the age of 19 and while fighting for his country, served as my inspiration to do something more.

With the help of Nan Card, curator of manuscripts, the Northwest Ohio Veterans’ Oral History Project was created in 2013 at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums. The purpose of the project is to collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal recollections of American war veterans through personal narratives, correspondence and visual materials. Currently, we have interviewed nearly 40 veterans for the project.

On a more personal note, I recently had the honor of participating in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s Reading of the Names at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

The Reading of the Names took place at the wall for 65 hours over a four-day period beginning with an opening ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 7. My reading time slot was scheduled for Nov. 10 at 4:14 p.m.

Each participant is given a group of 30 names to read and among my list was the name of Miguel Keith.

My dad rarely spoke of his war experiences during my childhood, but I know that Miguel’s name and memory are never far from his thoughts.

I arrived early to deliver a personal memento from my father to Miguel’s spot on The Wall. Somehow, knowing that in a few hours I was going to read his name aloud, gave that quiet moment special meaning.

As dusk began to fall, I took my place among the readers. I tend to get a little nervous when speaking in public, but for some reason I was very calm. I just had this overwhelming feeling that this was something I had to do…because it was the right thing to do.

It was an experience that I will never forget and one that I struggle to find the right words to describe.

I’m also grateful to my husband and several family members who made the trip to Washington, D.C., in support of this experience. Although there is no tribute that can truly match the magnitude of military service and sacrifice to this nation, it’s important for every veteran’s experience to be told. This was my small contribution to keep these names and stories alive. 

For information on the Northwest Ohio Veterans Oral History Project, visit http://www.rbhayes.org/research/northwest-ohio-veterans-oral-history-project/.

Read more about Julie on Ohio's Yesterdays, a blog by Nan Card, curator of manuscripts, here: http://ohiosyesterdays.blogspot.com/2017/11/paying-tribute-to-our-veterans-by-julie.html

The Hayes Presidential Library & Museums is America’s first presidential library and the forerunner for the federal presidential library system. It is partially funded by the state of Ohio and affiliated with the Ohio History Connection. The Hayes Presidential Library & Museums is located at Spiegel Grove at the corner of Hayes and Buckland avenues.

For information, call 419-332-2081, or visit rbhayes.org. Like HPLM on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hayespresidentialcenter and follow on Twitter at @rbhayespres and Instagram at rbhayespres.