Naples garden honors valor
NAPLES, Italy — Staff members of the U.S. Naval Hospital Naples dedicated a memorial garden Wednesday to honor the Navy medical community’s 28 Medal of Honor recipients and personnel listed as missing in action from past conflicts.
The centerpiece of the memorial is an anchor that came from the front gate of Naval Support Activity, La Maddalena, Sardinia, which closed last year.
"The anchor is a perfect symbol for our hospital, because it symbolizes the safety and security we bring to the community through the medical care we provide," said Capt. Joseph Sarachene, commanding officer for the hospital.
Surrounding the anchor are 28 blue bricks, each with the hand-painted name of a Medal of Honor recipient. Above the anchor is a small arc of eight black bricks with the names of those missing in action.
"To me, this means everything we as hospital corpsmen and medical service personnel represent," said Petty Officer 1st Class Byron Thompson Sr., who along with Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Hoysock built the memorial last summer.
"It came together as we worked on it," Hoysock said.
The hospital staff wanted the anchor showcased and asked Thompson to come up with an idea for a display. Thompson came up with the idea of the memorial while looking at photographs of the medical Medal of Honor recipients hanging on the wall in the hospital.
"These people paid the ultimate price to defend our country and protect our sailors and Marines. So it was personal to me, being deployed with the Marines multiple times, seeing the job we and other corpsman have done," Thompson said. "You come into the military to defend your country, and that’s what this represents."
One of the names on the black bricks is that of Manuel Reyes Denton, who was part of a six-man helicopter crew shot down over Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, in 1963. Remains from the crew were recovered between 2000 and 2002. Using "forensic and circumstantial evidence" the POW/MIA office in Washington identified Denton’s remains in August.
"This was an unusual case," said Air Force Captain Mary Olsen, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s POW/MIA office. "No individual remains were identified for Denton, but based on the evidence we were able to identify with others in his group, we consider him accounted for.
"If we do actually find individual remains, those would be turned over to his family."
The brick with Denton’s name will be removed from the memorial once the command receives official notification that he is no longer classified as missing in action, Thompson said.