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SAN JOSE -- The rain fell as gently as springtime blossoms, and the blossoms fell like rain.

Beneath it all, in a pocket park in the shade of the Shark Tank, the names of the dead practically shimmered with a milky glow. With white letters etched into black granite, each seemed a ghostly petal floating on a dark and endless sea of sorrow.

Forty years after the last Americans finally came home from the jungles of Southeast Asia -- and midway through Saturday's ceremony unveiling the San Jose Vietnam War Memorial -- the names of the 142 "sons of San Jose" who died in the war were read aloud.

Shoemaker and Triplett. Vasquez, Rodriguez and Wright.

George and Patrick, Gilbert and Craig.

Alongside her daughter Isabella, Karen Nastor-Paulson holds a portrait of her uncle, Tony Nastor, one of the 142 Sons of San Jose honored with an
Alongside her daughter Isabella, Karen Nastor-Paulson holds a portrait of her uncle, Tony Nastor, one of the 142 Sons of San Jose honored with an inscription on the Vietnam War Memorial unveiled Saturday afternoon March 30, 2013 in San Jose, Calif. Nastor was killed in Vietnam on June 6, 1968 while serving in the Army. (Karl Mondon/Staff) ( Caltrans )

Up on the wall, the name of each fallen hometown boy was bookmarked with the day he was born and the day he died. And each young man is from now on nestled within the curvilinear embrace of this 13-foot-long repository of remembrance.

"Young lives barely lived," speaker Michael Salas, of San Jose, told the crowd of family and friends of those honored, veterans and elected leaders. "Young loves barely loved."

A Vietnam vet himself and one of the volunteers behind the five-year fundraising campaign to honor his fellow soldiers, sailors and Marines, Salas began to cry as he spoke, just before the buglers prepared to play Taps. So did many in the crowd, clustered together in a colorful blur of military uniforms, memorial T-shirts and hand-held flags.


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"My uncle Tony is up there," said Karen Nastor Paulson, gesturing toward the monument. A social-services worker for the county, she'd come to the ceremony with her brother, also named Tony after the Army paratrooper who, like many of those on the wall, had graduated from San Jose High School in 1965. She and her brother said they were there to represent members of a sprawling and once-close-knit family that essentially had been torn apart by their uncle's death four decades earlier.

"We got to know Uncle Tony through memories of dad and my grandmother as we were growing up," she said. "I remember her telling me what a great kid Tony was, like how he'd come home from school and see her cutting the lawn and he'd immediately drop his books and take over for her."

But Tony Nastor's death "traumatized and disrupted our entire family," she said, describing how divorce and health issues conspired to push the family apart in different directions, never to really return. "So it's very emotional for me to be here today. Because even though I'd never met him, I've seen what his death did to our family."

Four decades later, the loss for many on hand Saturday was still as real as it ever was.

"I feel a close tie to these veterans because I've seen them bleed," said Army Sgt. Mike Frangadakis, who as a medical technician in Vietnam in the late 1960s did duty as a litter carrier and ambulance driver. The war also took his best friend growing up in San Jose, a kid named Steve Ohara.

"Steve's on the wall," said Frangadakis, a real-estate broker in Los Gatos who still serves as a recruiter for the California State Military Reserve, part of the National Guard. "We were best friends starting in sixth grade. And then, after he was killed, I was the pallbearer at his funeral, which took place the week I was leaving for Vietnam."

The unveiling of the monument on West Santa Clara Street, which was paid for entirely by private donations, resonated on multiple levels for members of the audience.

For many Vietnamese-Americans who had to flee their homeland and now call San Jose home, the wall is a tribute to the men who died trying to keep them free. For others, this very public recognition by San Jose of its Vietnam vets helped fill a sort of moral vacuum created when soldiers returned from Southeast Asia to angry anti-war demonstrations and outright violence by activists, some of whom transferred their opposition to the war to a hatred for their fellow citizens who had fought it.

"When I came home, I was attacked by 20 protesters three blocks from where I'm standing right now," Frangadakis said. "The vets coming home today from Iraq and Afghanistan are thankfully being treated with respect -- and honored for their service to their country. Today's ceremony is a reflection of that, even if that honor is coming 40 years later than it should have."

Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc

Here are the 142 San Jose residents who died in Vietnam and whose names appear on the new San Jose Vietnam War Memorial:
Ronald Lee Aleshire
Jimmie Marron Alvarez
Warren Lester Anderson
Joseph Antognini III
Alonso Aragon Jr.
Stephen Anthony Balters Jr.
Jeffrey Thomas Beardsley
Robert Eugene Beaumont
Leslie Allen Bellrichard
Thomas Howard Bergren
Raymond Bernal Jr.
Thomas George Brocker
Kermit Edward Burkey
Michael Edward Burns
Gary William Butler
Charles Byrd
George J. Carrillo Jr.
Timothy Michael Carroll
Jackie Charles Carter
Manuel Angel Castillo
Gerald Cervantes
Armando Chapa Jr.
Roberto Cobarrubias
James Miles Combs
Christopher Corwin Cook
William Donald Cook Jr.
Richard James Coston
Jimmy Douglas Curry
Kenneth Alan Dahl
David Michael Davison
Thomas Joe Dawson Jr.
Louis Scott Di Bari
Wolf-Dieter Dietz
Juan Leon Guerrere Duenas
Richard Monroe Dyke
Joseph Escamilla
Jaime Esquivel
Gerald Francis Filippi
Edwardo Flores
Richard Allan Forbes
William Holt Fowler III
Bruce Gary Friel
Richard Garza Jr.
Kenneth Gilbert Gellerman
Robert Gonzales
Michael John Grecu
Scott Craig Griswold
Dallas George Grundy
Phillip O. Guillen
Ernest Lemas Gutierrez
Robert Ralph Hammer
John Lewis Harley
Dean Allen Harris
Robert Earl Harris
Michael Maxwell Hatzell
Dan David Hayes
Glenn Elden Heflin
James Reeve Heimbold
Leroy Hensley
Robert Francis Hinkston
Melvin Douglas Holcomb
Fred Lee Hottinger
Howard Eugene Hurst
John William Irving Jr.
Robert Allen Jans
Robert Stevens Jernberg
Larry Michael Jordan
Theodore C Kappmeyer
Daniel Duane Keyes
Michael George Kindred
Loyd Eugene Kinsworthy
John Michael Koenig
Walter Koeppe Jr.
Russell Walter Krill
Jeffery David Kuersten
Marion Dominic La Rosa
Joseph Ledesma
John Edward Lopez Jr.
Chester George Lyons
Cesar Jabonillo Mamon
William A. Mansergh Jr.
Ernesto Martinez
Robert Susumu Masuda
John Albert McGehee
William David McGivern
Richard Harold McGuire
David Phillip Medina
Rudolph Melendez
Joseph Louis Mendoza
Michael Mereno
Robert Gail Miller
Angelo Raymond Morales
Carlos Garcia Munoz
Tony Valdez Nastor
Kenneth Lawrence Neal
Steve Masao Ohara
Jack Coleman Owens
William Allen Palenske
Richard Michael Patrick
Raymond Allan Petersen
Donald Ray Phipps
John Richard Poso
Timothy Cole Proudfoot
Miguel Angel Puentes
Alex Leon Quiroga
John Arthur Ramirez
Lynn Murray Randall
Rudolph Sotelo Renteria
Duane Lawrence Richard
Jose Anto Rivera-Bermudez
William S. Robertson III
Floyd Irwin Robinson
Joe Ignacio Rodriguez
Gilbert Ruiz
David Frank Santa-Cruz
Gilbert Serrano
Samuel Arthur Sharp Jr.
David Howard Shoemaker
Rosendo Flores Silbas
Charles Lenet Smith
James Douglas Smith
John Calvin Smith
Matthew Edward Smith
Eusebio Solis
Kenneth Lyle Spitzer
Daniel Edwin Strobbe
Jon Tasch
Kenneth Carl Titsworth
Grady Thomas Triplett
Richard Lee Trisler
Homer Urrabazo
Patrick John Vasquez
Jose Louis Vieras
Donald James Wade
George Allen Waldron
Thomas James Walker
Craig Leslie Walton
Larry Ellis Williams
Donald Ray Williamson
Dennis Harold Wright
Murray John Wyman
Augusto Maria Xavier