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Front Page » May 18, 2004 » Local News » Local man honored at Vietnam wall
Published 3,753 days ago

Local man honored at Vietnam wall


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor


An honor guard lays a wreath at the Vietnam Memorial commemorating those that died from the after effects.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. has been touted as a healing monument toward one of the most controversial conflicts in American history. For many it has done that, but due to the long arm effects of a war that passed almost 30 years ago, there are still ex-servicemen and women who are dying from the effects of the conflict.

For family members, their death was caused by the war as if they died during the years of the conflict. So on April 19, hundreds of people gathered at the memorial to commemorate those that have lost their lives since the war, but as a result of incidents that occurred there.

Among those names read and honored was that of Charles Leslie Blackham, who was born in Kenilworth and served in Vietnam 1967-68.

"The ceremony actually took place on the 15th anniversary of his death," says Dottie Flemett, his daughter.

Blackham joined the Air Force when he was 17 years old and retired in 1968 just after he returned from Vietnam. The family lived in Utah and then left for California for about a year and then moved back to the area again.

Altogether 191 names were read, out of the nearly 1400 men and women who have been identified by their families as having died as a result of latent circumstances created by the conflict.

Charles Leslie Blackham

A tribute was presented to those whose names were read and an "In Memory" plaque will be installed on behalf of those who lost their lives due to the wars causes.

For years many people have labored to get the government to include the names of latent victims on the wall and Department of Defense has only allowed names of those that died directly from injuries received in a combat zone.

Over the years the lasting unpleasant legacy of Vietnam has haunted the country. Many soldiers returned with post traumatic stress syndrome, leading to various kinds of problems in their lives from alcoholism and drugs to suicide. Others have physical problems from the war. The most prominent, of course, are lost limbs and appendages or brain injuries. But one that has taken it's toll, yet is not as identifiable is Agent Orange Syndrome.

Agent Orange was a defoliant that the American military sprayed on the jungles to eliminate hiding places for enemy soldiers. Unfortunately it also has some long term effects on the bodies of those that handled and were around it.

Blackham's death was a direct result of his exposure to the chemical, according to family members.

Each honored member had a placard put up for the ceremony in their name. On the bottom of the placard it stated "His name is not inscribed here, but his spirit is ever present."

"It was a touching ceremony," said Flemett. "It meant a lot to our family."


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