Former Alexandria servicemen and women, as well as friends and West Point classmates of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Rocky Versace, came to Mount Vernon Recreation Center Monday afternoon for a ceremony honoring Veterans Day.
Brig. Gen. J.W. Nicholson (ret.) shared several stories of Versace, an Army captain who lived for a time on Forest Street in Del Ray who was held prisoner in a Viet Cong war camp for 23 months before his execution in September 1965.
“It’s a real honor to remind people about someone like Rocky Versace, someone who embodied the West Point motto of ‘Duty, Honor, Country,' ” said Nicholson, who participated in missions aimed at Versace’s rescue.
While captured, Versace never cooperated with the Viet Cong. He ignored three bullet wounds in his left leg and adhered to the Military Code of Conduct, serving as an inspiration for others in the camp despite being held apart in a small bamboo cage.
A fellow POW nominated Versace for the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1970, but it was not awarded until 2002.
It was also in 2002 that the Friends of Rocky Versace erected a $250,000 plaza in his honor in front of Mount Vernon Recreation Center, just a few steps from where he used to live. The names of the 67 Alexandrians who were killed or went missing in Vietnam are inscribed along the benches of the plaza.
Veteran Kevin Rue, who served as emcee for Monday’s ceremony, said the Friends of Rocky Versace is still searching for pictures, citations and memories of the 67 heroes. The group, which continues to do outreach work with children who use the recreation center and also coordinates upkeep of the plaza, doesn’t have photos for about half of the 67 men.