Sgt. Ray Nixon was memorialized Tuesday on the 52nd anniversary of his death during the Vietnam War. His name was added to the Lincoln County war memorial honoring locals who lost their lives during war.
Nixon, who also served during the Korean War, was on his second tour at the time of his death, serving with the 4th Battalion, 9th Regiment of the US 25th Infantry Division, Alpha Company. He was one of 19 members of Alpha Company that died when their camp was overrun by a Viet Cong battalion on February 26, 1967.
According to Manchu.org, a website that chronicles the 4/9’s service in Vietnam from 1966-70,
“there were many instances of personal heroism that night, judging from the medals presented including the Medal of Honor, six silver stars, seven bronze stars, and the many purple hearts.”
Nixon was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. He’s interred at Links Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church in Iron Station.
For Nixon’s sister, Rebecca Nixon Nuamah, her husband Reginald Nuamah and daughter Monique Hughes, their visit to Lincolnton was a homecoming. The family lives in New York City and this was Nuamah’s first trip to Lincolnton in 50 years.
Nuamah was about 20 years old when her brother died. As a young girl in Lincolnton, she remembers her brother bringing her a jacket with a tiger on the back from Korea.
“I had thought in my dreams that one day I wanted to visit again,” Nuamah said. “This was my time to visit. I feel so welcome and honored.”
The family were welcomed by a slew of local veterans, Mayor Ed Hatley, several City Council members, four county commissioners, including Chairman Carrol Mitchem, and County Manager Kelly Atkins.
“For me, it was a very great adventure and a very happy time for me to meet relatives I had never met before, and friends and strangers.” Nuamah said. “And it let me know that behind the scenes there’s a lot of people doing work that you don’t really know about.”
Indeed, the service had been in the works since December. It took a group of people, myself included, to make the it happen.
As a journalist, I’m supposed to report the news, not be the news. But since many have asked and several people thanked me for what little hand I had in the event. It feels appropriate to “set the record straight.”
The public should be able to tell by how frequently I write about veterans that they hold a special place in my heart. My grandfather, Charles Anthony, saw combat on Iwo Jima during WWII. Pop rarely spoke of his experiences in war. But he did talk about other veterans, people who died or never made it home like his friend Jewel Colvard, whose name is also on the memorial.
On Memorial Day, Pop and I would drive out to Bethlehem United Methodist Church to place a rose on the grave of Larkin Rudisill, a WWI veteran that died in 1928, when Pop was just three years old.
I didn’t know what would come of my interview with Rudolf Young. The goal was to learn more about the Newbold School for an article about the 50th anniversary of desegregation. Young talked for nearly two hours about many different aspects of black history in Lincoln County. It was during this interview that I first heard of Ray Nixon. Young said Nixon’s name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., but not the local one.
I sent Nixon’s name to Alex Patton, director of Lincoln County Veterans Services, along with what little information I could find online. When Vietnam Veteran Dale Punch got wind of the situation, that’s when things really got moving.
Punch, a passionate supporter of his fellow veterans, and I went on a mission to find out more about Nixon. We found Nixon’s grave at Links Chapel then hit pay dirt at the Jonas Library. I thought we’d get kicked out or at least shushed when we saw the Lincoln Times-News headline from March 6, 1967: Lincoln Soldier Killed, Another Wounded in Action in Vietnam.
“We accomplished something,” Punch said “It feels good. Everytime I go by, I remember my three classmates and now I’ll remember Ray.”
Lincoln County showed its true colors Tuesday morning at Nixon’s memorial service. We welcomed Nixon’s family as we would our own, showing them our gratitude and our giving spirit. We came together to make sure that one of our own wouldn’t be forgotten for his sacrifice.
“If I had not come here, I would have missed something so important,” Nuamah said. “I heard the voice. It said ‘go.’ I didn’t know what I would find. I didn’t think about money or anything.
This is something I’ll always remember. Thank you.”