‘He passed doing what he loved’: Richmond man honors brother who died in Vietnam War

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More than 9,000 burials are located in Richmond National Cemetery, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. With each headstone comes a story.

James Israel King was 22 years old when he was killed in Vietnam. His only sibling, older brother Wiley King, said that he pays his respects to James several times throughout the year, including each Memorial Day.

“I came to Richmond in ’63. He came about ’64, and he was here about six months or so and joined the Marine Corps, and he was very happy about it,” Wiley said. “I think it was Panama, where he was supposed to go, and then after he was in there, about three, four months, President [Lyndon B.] Johnson called and said he had to send 300 Marines to Vietnam. He was the one in the group that went over there, and he was over there about a year. Just about a month before he was ready to come back, we lost him over there.”

According to James’ headstone at Richmond National Cemetery, he died on Nov. 27, 1967. Wiley said that the King family never found out much about how James died.

“My mother, she was real, real sad; all of us, sad about it,” Wiley said. “During that time, the United States was losing a lot of young men over there.”

According to the National Archives, there were more than 58,000 U.S. military fatal casualties of the Vietnam War.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 9,000 burials located at Richmond National Cemetery. (Photo: Olivia Jaquith)

“I’m thankful for all of them, for all of them that served,” Wiley said.

Wiley said that his brother was proud to wear the uniform, and enjoyed military training.

James was laid to rest more than five decades ago with fellow military service members in Richmond National Cemetery. When Wiley visits, he said that it’s usually in silence.

“I really don’t do a lot of talking,” he said. “I think about what happened during that time when we was growing up, you know, that he really didn’t get a chance to see too much, being that young.”

For most of his life, Wiley has been without James. Wiley said that his only peace is knowing what James was fighting for.

“He passed doing what he loved and it was good for mankind,” Wiley said. “That makes me feel a little better. But it still hurts, though.”

Most of the military service members who are buried at Richmond National Cemetery died in Confederate prisons, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Among those are 3,200 Union soldiers reinterred from Oakwood Cemetery, and another 388 from Hollywood Cemetery. The remains of 2,710 Union soldiers who died in local battles are also buried at the eight-acre cemetery.

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