Remembering Fallen Shipmates – Part I (N3N5)

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Here are our shipmates who were lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC) {note: N513 will be posted 10 Sept}.  Look closely and ponder the slice of America they represent – from every corner of the country, some first generation immigrants who were refugees of war – others from a long line that has served this country.  None of them anticipated their fate when they left for work that morning from their homes in Virginia, Maryland or the District.   From all walks of life they had come to serve – and ultimately to unexpectedly die together.  

E Pluribus Unum.

Indeed, out of many, one.  Rest in peace…

CAPT Gerry Decanto, USN, Navy Captain Gerald F. DeConto of Alexandria, Va., was killed during the terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11. He was 44. Captain DeConto was born in Halifax. He graduated from Sandwich High School in 1975, where he was an outstanding soccer and basketball player. He was also active in the Boy Scouts. In 1979, he graduated from the US Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in physics. Upon receiving his commission, he attended the Surface Warfare Officer School in San Diego before reporting to the USS Excel as a damage control assistant. From 1982 to 1984, he served on the USS Fresno as an operations officer. He earned a master’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., in 1986. He was assigned to the USS Hewitt, where he served as chief engineer from December 1986 to July 1989. He also served as executive officer of the USS Lake Erie and commanding officer of the USS Simpson. He also was chief of staff for Standing Naval Force Mediterranean from April 2000 to May 2001. Captain DeConto was assigned as director of current operations and plans branch for the Navy CommandCenter at the Pentagon in June 2001. In addition to his extensive Navy activities, Captain DeConto enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, sailing, biking, shellfishing, skiing, and running with his dogs. He leaves his mother, Patricia L. of Sandwich; two sisters, Dale K. Choate of Mashpee and Marie DeConto-Thomas of Forestdale; and two brothers, David J. of Sandwich and Raymond E. of East Lynne, Conn.

“It’s a ’91 model, and you wouldn’t expect somebody who could afford something else to be driving it, but he was very attached to it. He just had it painted–a little sporty stripe down the side and put a new stereo in it, and new tires. Once you saw that Explorer you knew just who he was. There was the license plate that said FISH79–a United States Naval Academy plate. ‘Fish’ was his nickname and ’79 was when he graduated. It had a big sticker–United States Naval Academy–on the back also. It just showed how devoted he was to the Navy and how proud he was of the academy. It was like his ship on land. … When you’re a captain of a ship you’re in complete control and have complete responsibility. That’s what seems to have happened with this Explorer. You saw that coming and you knew it was Jerry.” — Patricia L. DeConto, mother

CAPT Larry Getzfred, USN, 57, of Elgin, Nebraska, an officer in the Navy command center at the Pentagon, U.S. Navy. Capt Getzfred’s family was presented with a plaque from the American Legion, honoring 100 years of service in the Armed Forces by members of the Getzfred family.


“He built it for the girls. This was relaxation for him. He started building dollhouses when they were in preschool. He did a house to fit the Barbie dolls and a barn and a henhouse, and he found the animals to scale. He was so good with his hands. Believe it or not, he’s made Barbie doll dresses for them. He was such a straightforward Navy person; it was ‘get it done, get it done right’ — and here was this artistic stuff that would come out.” — Pat Grooss-Getzfred, wife

CDR Rob Schlegel, USN, Though he contemplated a career in journalism, Cmdr. Robert Allan Schlegel, 38, of Alexandria, Va., followed his father and two brothers into the Navy and was recently promoted to commander. It was the highest ranking received in his family–which has 60 years of naval experience–and earned the 15-year veteran a new office at the Pentagon. There, on the second floor, he scheduled and assigned the cruise routes and dates for Navy ships, according to his sister-in-law, Debbie Schlegel, who has known him since they attended Gray-New Gloucester High School together in Maine. His office was believed to be at the point of impact where the jetliner crashed into the Pentagon, said his family. “He’d always come over and play with our kids, getting that `uncle’ time in when [his brother David] was out at sea,” Debbie Schlegel said. “He was an all-around great kid.” After high school, Schlegel left Maine to attend Washington and Lee University in Virginia, where he majored in journalism and minored in French. He worked as a reporter at the Lewiston Sun Journal in Maine but changed careers and trained to be an officer in the Navy. In 1996 he was named the commanding officer of the Atlantic Tomahawk Afloat Planning System. Before he moved to the Pentagon last year, he was executive officer for the destroyer USS Radford. An avid sports fan, Schlegel loved to play hockey, watch football and compete with his brothers and nephew at video games.

“He saved his boutonniere from our wedding day 14 years ago. My husband distinguished himself academically and professionally, but I feel his legacy is the way that he touched people and his relationships. The boutonniere is symbolic of not just our relationship, but the depth of his caring. He was a man of many dimensions, and this captures what he held closest to his heart.” –Dr. Dawn Schlegel, wife

CAPT Jack Punches, USN-Ret., 51, of Clifton, Virginia, a civilian employee with the U.S. Navy.
  • I prayed I would not know any of the victims on that fateful day as the events unfolded. The horror of the events will remain with us forever and your memory as well. You will personalize this event to our family. Our sons played baseball together in Little League and high school. Jack, like my husband, often assisted in coaching. Jack was a devoted father and a gentle man. My prayers go out to his family. — Aurora White, neighbor and friend


  • To a fine American who dedicated his adult life to the defense of freedom; to a friend who is missed; to an aviator who chose to live a life of consequence. Thanks Jack — it was an honor and a pleasure to know you. — Allen Efraimson, colleague

“Jack and our son Jeremy played every day after dinner in the back yard since Jeremy was 6 or 7 years old. They’d take turns hitting and pitching, with our trees and fence marking bases and home runs. The two of them went through so many bats and whiffle balls; this ball got so split up they had to put tape all over it. Jeremy could win a few games every once in a while, but most of the time his dad would beat up on him. There’s still a bare spot where the pitcher’s mound used to be. But grass is trying to grow over the top of it.” — Janice Punches, wife

LCDR Eric Cranford, USN, 32, of Drexel, N.C., had worked under the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon since April 1999 and was in the building when American Airlines Flight 77 struck it. Cranford graduated from East Burke High School in Drexel, a town of 2,000. Cranford, a naval aviator, was commissioned at the University of North Carolina in 1992 and obtained the rank of lieutenant in 1996. He served in a helicopter squadron in Mayport, Fla., and on the USS Gettysburg, USS McInerney and USS Carr. He had been awarded nine service medals.
  • Your faith and wonderful smile were a blessing to all of us who were fortunate to know you. You were one of God’s children, and we give thanks that you are with him this day. — J. Christopher Leonard, friend

LCDR Rob Elseth, USN,37, passed away on September 11, 2001 at the Navy Command Center in the Pentagon. He is survived by his wife Annette, daughter Faith, parents Berta and Curtis Elseth, brothers Jim and Harlan, and sister Nancy. Bob was a 1987 graduate of The Ohio State University. He served 10 years on active duty with the United States Navy, serving on the USS CLAUDE V. RICKETTS (DDG -5), USS DONALD B. BEARY (FF-1085), and the USS JOHN RODGERS (DD-983) and served as an Instructor at the Surface Warfare Officer School in Newport, RI. While at Surface Warfare OfficerSchool, Bob was recognized as the Junior Officer of the Year for Newport Naval Ashore Commands. Bob was active in his church as a Sunday School teacher for first grades, and also coached Girls Soccer. Along with friends, Bob was a founding partner of Delta Resources, Inc. a defense consulting firm. He continued to served the Navy as an Officer in the Naval Reserve in a number of units including his most recent service in the Naval Command Center. He will be remembered by all as a loving son, a caring brother, a devoted husband, a friends to all , and a father like no other.

He really loved kids. He coached them even before he had his own daughter. He was the one guy who could outlast their energy. When we grew up neither one of us played soccer, but he got into it because he loved working with kids and the team needed a coach. He spent countless hours in the yard with his own daughter, and he was coach of his daughter’s soccer team at the time of his death. Family was very important to my brother. He was a reservist, and the reason he went off active duty after 10 years was to spend more time with his family.” –Maj. Jim Elseth, brother

LCDR Pat Murphy, USNR, Flossmoor native Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Jude Murphy had served on nuclear submarines and had recently moved to New Jersey with his wife and two children. He was a reserve officer who was at the Pentagon Tuesday when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building, said his godfather, William Slavin, who shared a Chicago Heights dental practice with Murphy’s father. Murphy, 38, grew up in Flossmoor and graduated from Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights in 1981.

“When he was on active duty, he was an officer on the submarine USS Daniel Webster. That was the last submarine he was assigned to–after three years on the USS Sandlance–and its logo was on the belt buckle. He treasured it. It was found with his body.” –Masako Murphy, wife

LCDR Ron Vaulk, USN, On September 11, 2001; RONALD JAMES, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER U.S.N.R. died at the Pentagon while serving as a Watch Commander at the Navel Command Center. Beloved husband of Jennifer M. Vauk (nee Mooney) of Mt. Airy, MD; devoted father of 3 year old Liam and yet to be born baby; devoted son of Hubert and Dorothy Vauk of Nampa, ID; brother of Charles, David, Gary, Dennis Vauk, Teri Masterson, Celia Shikuma, Lynne Caba, and Patricia Vauk; son-in-law of Carol and Patrick Mooney, brother-in-law of Alissa and Chris DeBoy. Ron is also survived by 18 nieces and nephew

Lt. Cmdr. Ronald James Vauk was on the second day of his annual two-week Navy Reserve stint at the Pentagon when the Boeing 757 plunged into the building Tuesday morning.   His family thought the damaged section housed mostly Army personnel. But by 7 that night, when there was still no word of him, relatives began to fear the worst. Then they learned that Vauk, of Mount Airy, Va., was assigned to the Naval Command Center under the section that had been hit. Yesterday, the Navy listed him as missing.   He has a 3-year-old son, and his wife is pregnant with their second child. Vauk, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy and spent five years in the Navy before joining the reserves, works at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in research.   “I’m trying to hope for a miracle, like everyone else,” said a sister, Pat Vauk, who arrived home from work yesterday to find the unwelcome sight of funeral flowe rs sitting on her table. “You try to hold out hope, but as time goes on, it gets harder.”   Pat Vauk last saw her brother, whom she described as a “fabulous human being,” on Friday, when she came to Baltimore from her Minneapolis home on business.   She said rescuers had been unable to penetrate the area where they believe her brother was working. The family — he is the youngest of nine siblings — is spread out across the country, and the others have been unable to come to Washington because of the commercial aviation ban.   “It’s just not easy, not easy at all to go through this,” she said.   — Jo Becker

LT Scott Lamana, USN, Mike and Wendy Lamana left Baton Rouge less than 12 hours after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon Tuesday. They were driving to where their son, Michael Scott “Scotty” Lamana, had surely died, though there was no body. Lamana, 31, was a U.S. Navy lieutenant who worked in the Pentagon. He had been a 1992 graduate of Louisiana State University and then joined the military. By Tuesday afternoon, as the Pentagon remained engulfed in flames and rescue workers publicly admitted that no survivors seemed likely to be found, Lamana’s parents hopped in their car, bound for Washington D.C., according to relative Ronnie Chatelain. They were sure their son hadn’t survived, Chatelain said, because authorities had told them he was unaccounted for, and they knew Lamana would call to reassure them if he could.

“We were newly married and stationed in Hawaii. He knew I was going to be alone a lot, so he got me Nieko. She was the puppy from hell, just atrocious. I used to call him in the Middle East when he was deployed there and yell at him, ‘Why did you buy this dog? I’m stuck with her, and she’s tearing the house apart.’ He would laugh, say, ‘Hang in there,’ and tell me he loved me. By the time he got back, the dog was trained and well-behaved. He fell in love with her. We were going to have children, but we didn’t have the chance. She became like our child, and Scott had a true bond with her. Sometimes when I look at Nieko it brings back happy memories of how fun-loving Scott was.” –Lorna Lamana, wife

ITC Gregg Smallwood, USN, Gregg Harold Smallwood, 44, of Overland Park, Kansas, a chief information systems technician in the U.S. Navy.

Gregg Harold Smallwood’s Navy career took him across the United States and the South Pacific. The 44-year-old information systems technician first set sail on the Henry B. Wilson, a guided missile destroyer, in November 1976. He then served in San Diego and Kingsville, Tex.   Smallwood, who rose to the rank of chief in his specialty, moved to the Navy Communications Area Master Station in Guam in October 1979 for two years. He then left the Navy for seven years, returning in 1988 to serve on the frigate Reasoner. After a couple of stints in California, Smallwood traveled to the Indian Ocean to work at the Naval Computer Telecommunications Station in Diego Garcia. In July 1998, he joined the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon.   The Navy lists his home as Overland Park, Kan.

ITC Don Young, USN, In high school, Donald McArthur Young was the football player who got the scholarship to college, the “cool guy” whom all the girls liked, remembered his football coach George Miller. “He was a good kid, really dedicated not only to athletics but academics as well,” Miller said. He joined the ROTC at William Fleming High School in Roanoke, Va., and stayed involved, even while he played football on a scholarship at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. After graduating, Young joined the Navy because he felt it was his duty to work for his country, Miller said. The 41-year-old Young was working as an information systems technician in the Pentagon when he was killed. “It was important for him to do what he could for his country,” Miller said. “I think his wife (Felicia) wanted him to quit, but he didn’t. He loved America that much. And he wound up dying for his country.”

€œEvery time he went on a ship he collected a [Navy] hat. He also got one every time he had shore duty. They had great sentimental value to him because he was going to retire in a year or two, after 24 years. With the hats he could look back on his naval career and see where he had been and what he had done. … He died doing what he loved. €   –Felicia Young, wife

IT1 Johnnie Doctor, USN, 32, of Jacksonville, Florida, an information systems technician first class in the U.S. Navy.

“This pendant is the only jewelry he ever wore. He wore it around his neck. It signifies brotherhood, but it has a whole lot of other meanings as well, like courage. This pendant was the most important thing to him. The Navy said the chain was gone but they found the pendant on his body. When we laid him to rest, it was my confirmation that I was truly burying my husband.”   –Andrea Doctor, wife

ET1 Ron Hemenway, USN, 37, of Shawnee, Kansas, an electronics technician first class of the U.S. Navy.

“Horses were Ronald’s passion. He loved to train and care for them and even had the opportunity to watch the birth of his stallion BarNone, known as ‘Barney.’ Ronald kept his horses at his parents’ home in Kansas. But we shared a dream together, to have a home with land to raise horses and our children. He was looking for property in Virginia when September 11th happened. His parents, Bob and Shirley, still treasure his horses.” — Marinella Hemenway, wife

Profile:   After pursuing jobs in the field of horse breeding, Ronald John Hemenway joined the Navy and built a successful career that landed him a job in the Pentagon, where he was working on Sept. 11 when Flight 77 slammed into it.   The 37-year-old Hemenway, an electronics technician first class, was raised in Alaska and attended the University of Fairbanks.   His mother, Shirley, told the Washington bureau of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that when he was 30 and the family was living in Kansas, she found a note from her son one morning that said, “I won’t be home until I’ve found a job.”   He came back and said he planned to join the Navy — and he did, training in electronics and graduating at the top of his class. After a tour on the USS LaSalle, he took a job at the Pentagon to be closer to his family.   Hemenway has a wife, Marinella, and two children, Stefan, 3, and Desiree, 1.   — Valerie Strauss

AW1 Joseph Pycior, USN, Joseph John Pycior Jr. was a Navy man through and through, the son, grandson and nephew of Navy veterans. He spent almost 20 years in the service, served on the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and was a veteran of Desert Storm. He also happened to really like playing with Legos. “He really was a big kid,” said his widow, Terri Pycior. Mr. Pycior, a Carlstadt native, was working at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 when a hijacked plane crashed into the building. The aviation warfare systems operator first class, just months away from his Navy retirement, was killed. Mr. Pycior, 39, was looking forward to starting a new career as a middle school teacher, focusing on his favorite subject, history. The Civil War buff had completed correspondence courses at Thomas Edison State College in May and was supposed to collect his bachelor of arts degree in history during a ceremony in Trenton on Oct. 13. Instead, his wife and two sons, Joey III, 10, and Robbie, 8, came from their home in Landover, Md., and accepted the degree for him. From his youngest days, Mr. Pycior wanted to join the Navy, said his mother, Arlene Pycior. He was in the Navy Brigade as a boy and entered the Navy Junior ROTC at East Rutherford’s Becton Regional High School, where he met Terri. A week after graduating from high school, Mr. Pycior enlisted in the Navy. He served in the Persian Gulf twice, on P-3 airplanes and in the recruiting field in Philadelphia. He began working at the Pentagon in 1999. “With any job he was given, he was very conscientious with his job,” his mother said. “He was a good father, a good husband and a good son.” Mr. Pycior also loved being Webelos den leader of his older son’s Cub Scout pack and motivating the young boys, Terri Pycior said. “He was like the life of the party,” she said. During Labor Day weekend, the couple went to the Cherry Hill area and talked with real estate agents about houses. They wanted to settle down, get a dog. They promised the boys it would be their last move. Mr. Pycior was looking for a house with a basement. He was going to make a special room with no carpeting, where he and sons could build huge models, made of Legos. Along with his mother, his wife and his two sons, Mr. Pycior is survived by his father, Joseph J. Pycior. He was predeceased by a brother, Gregory.

“The thing he was known for, especially at the end, was being the biggest Cub Scout there was. In the spring of 2001, Joe and our boys, Joey and Robbie, entered their handmade cars in Pack 970’s pinewood derby. Joe won for Pack 970, and then he took second place for the Two Rivers District [in southern Prince George’s County]. Robbie and I wore wolf neckerchiefs, but Joe and Joey wore Webelos neckerchiefs. You know, Webelos actually stands for something: We’ll be loyal scouts. It’s appropriate.” –Terri Pycior, wife

IT1 Marsha Ratchford, USN, For her nearly 15 years in the Navy, Marsha Ratchford traveled wherever her orders sent her. There was Hawaii and Guam and Japan and SeattleCalifornia. and Washington D.C; the Pentagon was to be her family’s last stop. “She was retiring after this,” said her husband, Rodney Ratchford, Friday night. Asked to describe his wife, Rodney Ratchford didn’t even pause: “The main thing about her,” he said, “is that she was just the most loving mother.” The Ratchfords, who have been married 13 years, have three children: a son who is 11, a daughter who is 8, and another daughter who is barely 18 months.

On the morning of Sept. 11, Marsha Ratchford called her husband to tell him about the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. “She told me that the two planes had just hit the towers,” he said. “She told me, ‘I love you,’ and, ‘Have a nice day,’ and, ‘I’ll call you later.’ That was the last I heard from her.”   Since then, Rodney Ratchford has turned to his faith and family for support, including the close-knit community drawn even closer together at Bolling Air Force Base, where he and his family live. “Everybody loved her as much as I did,” he said.   His children have been asking questions, searching for simple explanations to complex situations as only children can. The kids ask the hardest question of all: Why? He believes that only God can provide the answer, and that only God can keep his hope intact.   “We’re not,” he said, “going to give up.” –Robert Ratchord, husband

OS2 Nehamon Lyons, USN, When Nehamon Lyons IV visited relatives in Alabama over the 4th of July, he was full of talk about how much he loved working in the U.S. Navy and living in Washington, D.C. “He was very happy, very high-spirited, excited,” said his cousin, Latrice Racy. The 30-year-old operations specialist second class had a fairly new posting at the Pentagon. He was there when the plane crashed Tuesday. “He was kind of shy, a very giving person, very hard-working and dedicated,” Racy said. Lyons planned to make a career in the service.

“The necklace is white gold, and he wore it all the time when he wasn’t on duty. The Pentagon sent it to me. They cleaned it up t

he best they could. They also sent one of his pins that he wore on the ship, and a dime. That’s all they had. I put his medal on the shelf and I keep the necklace in a box on my dresser. I keep it close to me.”   –Jewell Lyons, mother

DM2 Michael Noeth, USN, 30, of Jackson Heights, New York, an illustrator/draftsman second class with the U.S. Navy.

“He was absolutely fascinated by the Titanic. It started when he was just a baby and saw some cartoon about it that I can’t recall. He was still in diapers. After that, nothing. Then, at 6, it became a real fixation. He read everything he could about it. He built models of every conceivable size, in paper, plastic, wood. You name it. When he was able to get his piece of the Titanic [given to him by his grandmother Muriel Kuhn], he just flipped out.” –Merrilly Noeth, mother

Profile: Michael Allen Noeth, 30, joined the Navy as a deck seaman in 1994 because he wasn’t making any money as an artist. A year later he drew a cover for “All Hands,” a Navy magazine, where he worked for a short wh

ile.   He was stationed on the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in Norfolk last year when he had a showing of his paintings at the Montserrat Gallery in his native New York City.   “I was so nervous,” he was quoted as saying in the Navy Wire Service. “I felt that I would be either successful or I would bomb.” Noeth sold five paintings at the showing.   At the time of the attack, Noeth was working on his project of painting portraits of all the chiefs of naval operations, the Los Angeles Times reported.   “I paint sailors to show the world that we don’t just ride ships to see some really cool foreign countries,” Noeth had told the Navy News Service. “I want people to realize that their freedom and protection comes from the sweat of the sailors on board.”   Noeth, a Navy illustrator and draftsman, was a petty officer second class.

SK3 Jamie Fallon, USN, 23, of Woodbridge, Va., Storekeeper third class, U.S. Navy

  • My name is Teresa Fallon, I lost my sister at the Pentagon in the September 11th attack. Our family is dealing with Jamie’s death the best way we know how, which isn’t easy. Jamie left behind a wonderful son, named Kahleb. Kahleb is a wonderful, 9-month old boy, with the same big grin that Jamie wore on her face everyday. My thought and prayers are with every family member that lost a loved one in this terrible act of hatred. — Teresa Fallon, sister
  • Jamie was my best friend of 11 years. We met in high school and have been friends ever since. She was the most fun, caring and loving person I have ever known. I miss her and love her very much. — LeAnda Garrison, friend

Jamie Lynn Fallon’s career began with basic training at Great Lakes, Ill. From there, the 23-year-old Woodbridge native spent three months at the Naval Technical Training Center in Meridian, Miss., followed by a stint at the naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Bahrain.   Fallon spent more than two years on the USNS Concord, a fleet support ship, before moving to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Support Activity at the Pentagon.   Fallon, a petty officer third class, was a storekeeper.

Mr. Julian Cooper, 39, of Springdale, Maryland, a Navy contractor

  • Julian, my neighbor, my classmate, my childhood friend… time went on and we grew older I never thought such a precious life would be taken so early. My heart goes out to your Mom,your sisters Darlene and Marie, and your brother Philip and the rest of your family. Your Presence will be dearly missed. Much love and respect to you, you have gained your Angel wings to watch over the rest of us. God will keep you now safe in his presence. Forever will you and your family be in my prayers. God Bless.   —Jacquelyn Grays (Forestville, MD)

Ms. Judith Jones, 53, of Woodbridge, Virginia, a civilian employee with the U.S. Navy.

“My mother lived to go to the beach. That was when she was happiest and most at peace. She always told me that when she died she wanted her ashes spread at the beach because she wanted to spend eternity there. She loved taking her grandchildren to the ocean and playing with them in the sand. The photograph was special to her because it was taken the first time my children had ever been to the beach, and it was a great pleasure for her to experience their first time.”   –Michelle Bush Burkes, daughter

Mr. James Lynch, Manassas, Virginia, a civilian employee with the U.S. Navy. – Consultant, Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc.

“We went [to the Hall of Fame] last August, just before he was killed. He couldn’t wait to get on the road. He was like a little kid, he was so excited. We grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates was his idol. It was 100 degrees in the shade and there we were, watching Bill Mazeroski get inducted. I am so happy we were able to send him to the induction. He did so much for us, and looking back, I’m glad we could do something for him that he always wanted to do before he died.”   — Jackie Lynch, wife

Mr. Khang Nguyen, 41, of Fairfax, Virginia, a Navy contractor.

“This guitar was my husband’s dearest friend. Playing it was his greatest passion. Growing up in one of the poorest countries, [Vietnam], he had to sacrifice all his meal allowances to buy his first guitar and played beautifully since he was a teenager. … The sound of Khang’s tunes flowed through our house and through my heart. When I was feeling down, his music lifted my spirit. He always hoped that he would teach our little son, An, to play the guitar. Now, just like his Dad, this guitar has become An’s buddy. Sadly, Khang cannot be here for An’s music lessons, but his songs and his music will live forever in our hearts.” –Tu Nguyen, wife

Profile: Khang Nguyen grew up familiar with war. In South Vietnam, he and his family heard the frequent boom of shells and gunfire. Once, a mortar shell fell on a house across the street from his home, killing their friends inside.   In 1975, when communists took over the country, he and his family fled to an airport in vans. His father and two of his siblings made it onto a flight to the United States, but the rest of the family got left behind amid the chaos.   Nguyen, his mother and other siblings lived in poverty, peddling rice on the streets. Meanwhile, his father, a former employee of the U.S. Information Services in Vietnam, used his contacts to find the family.   In 1981, the parents and nine children were reunited in Washington.   Family members said Nguyen relished his newly ordered, stable life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland. For 13 years, he worked for the Defense Information Systems Agency at the Pentagon, and during the past six months was a systems administrator for a Navy contractor.   Nguyen, 41, loved working at the Pentagon and would buy hats and T-shirts with government logos. He devoured books on the military, particularly about the Vietnam War.   “This is our second native country. We have gotten so many opportunities,” said his wife, Tu Nguyen, 38.   Tu Nguyen, her eyes dry after several days of crying, said she hasn’t been able to tell their 4-year-old son, An, what happened to his father.   Wednesday afternoon, the Pentagon arranged for Khang Nguyen’s car to be towed from the parking lot to a relative’s driveway. Family members said that the little boy jumped up and down, pressing his face against the car windows, looking for his father.   “He was lucky; he was born here,” Tu Nguyen said quietly. “He never suffered any pain from the war. But now he is 4 years old, and he has lost his father.” — Phuong Ly

Note: Text inside the quotation boxes is quoted from the Washington Post’s 9/11 (Pentagon) Memorial site.


  1. Eyes wet. Don’t forget.

  2. cindy t

    I kept scrolling down and hoping that the scroll bar would stop. I am thankful to the folks who provided personal stories to those we lost. I am very sorry their families must endure the passing of the years without their loved ones. Please accept the gratitude from me and my family for their sacrifices. We will pull our flag to half-mast over our humble home and pray for the families on Friday. Alan Jackson sang a song about 9/11. It was beautiful.

  3. Cindy:

    Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughts. Indeed, the roll is long – and today it is no shorter than that awful night almost 8 years ago when we were making the finally tally of our MIA from that day’s attack…
    w/r, SJS

  4. Robert R. Williams, III

    I will always fondly remember shipmate Jack Punches. When he and I worked together, I noticed that Jack had a finger missing. He said it was a result of his catching his ring on an obstruction which tore off his finger. I retold this story to my lovely wife when she wondered why I did not wear my wedding ring when assigned to a ship. But now Jack is missing…how does one prevent that? Jack, I miss you man. RRW,III N3/5B

  5. I was looking all Sunday for some opinions and news about Overland Park Kansas event and here you have delivered. Thanks!


    Thanks AW1 Pycior for your dedication to our great nation. Your personal friendship and dedication will never be forgotten. Your memories will always be cherished.

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