Vietnam Vet’s Military Ministry
Accessible 24 hours a day, the Vietnam Veterans Wall is the most visited memorial in Washington, DC. Volunteers, many of them vets, look after the wall and its legacy. Bill Shugarts, a Vietnam veteran, has spent years helping visitors find the names of loved ones and understand the meaning behind the monument. In 2010, our video crew spent a day with Shugarts and fellow volunteers from Christ United Methdodist Church in nearby Fairfax, Va.
(Locator: Washington, DC)
Bill Shugarts, tracing name on wall: "Now you watch. The name will come alive."
More than 58,000 names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Vietnam vet Bill Shugarts volunteers here five days a month.
Bill Shugarts to visitor: "If you need a name, we can help you find that too."
John Canada, Vietnam Memorial Visitor: "I appreciate the fact that they're out here day and night to help folks like us know and understand this wall."
Bill Shugarts: "The human part of it is the letters."
Shugarts helps gather letters and other tributes left at the wall; all archived by the National Park Service.
Bill Shugarts: "The biggest thing that's been left there, which was years ago, was a custom-made motorcycle."
His experiences led Shugarts to start a military ministry for deployed members of his church, Christ United Methodist in Fairfax Station, Virginia. Co-chairman Bob Rositzke says today people are better at putting politics aside to support U.S. troops.
Bob Rositzke, Ministry Co-Chairman: "I had three tours to Vietnam. When we came home, we weren't that welcome. People are behind the troops now."
Church member: "We put something in that the kids in the Sunday school make."
Geoffrey Ballou was most touched by the cards from children while he was serving in Iraq.
Geoffrey Ballou, Army Veteran: "Very touching, very heartwarming to get those things. I kept them all and brought them back with me; everything I got from the kids."
Church members post pictures, pray for each soldier and reach out to members' families, like Laura Ballou.
Laura Ballou, Military Spouse: "They would e-mail me and just to say, 'Hello, how are you. Do you need anything?'"
Shugarts wants the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers to never be forgotten.
Bill Shugarts: "These guys never expected to be on a memorial or have their name on a memorial. And all of us, when we serve, we were just doing our jobs."
Members of Christ United Methodist Church are also members of the Northern Virginia Military Ministry Outreach. In 2014, the group helped settled a family of immigrants from Afghanistan. The father had served as an interpreter for U.S. troops.
For more information about the ministry, call Christ United Methodist Church at 703-690-3401.
First published on May 26, 2010.