Port Royal family remembers Cpl. Vernon Fyall - a brother, a son and a soldier - at parade

charley@beaufortgazette.comMay 27, 2012 

Pauline Fyall of Port Royal will proudly remember her brother, Cpl. Vernon Robert Fyall, as she drives a car in his memory Monday in Beaufort's Memorial Day Parade.

Nicknamed "Boomer," Vernon was hit by hostile sniper fire Nov. 6, 1968, while on guard duty in Vietnam.

Pauline was a teenager, just four years younger than her 19-year-old brother when she got the news.

"I remember my dad came and got me and my cousin out of school ... when we got home, he told us," Pauline said.

Pauline remembers her friends at school being afraid to talk about her brother's death.

"They didn't want to make me remember," she said. "They had a memorial program for him at Robert Smalls High School, but I wasn't there."

In the fall of 2000, Pauline attended the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Monument in Columbia with her parents and other families -- called Gold Star families -- who had lost their children to the war.

She reflects on what might have been: "He would have been 63 on his birthday last March 6."

amily honors Vernon all year long with fresh flowers on his grave in Beaufort National Cemetery: on the anniversary of his death, on Veterans Day, on his birthday and Memorial Day.

"During the holidays we talk about him and old times and those are the two times your mind is on him the hardest -- from November on," Pauline said. "We sit around and talk and shed tears and wonder what would he be doing? Would he have kids? Would he be married?"

Vernon and Pauline were two of seven children and grew up in Port Royal. Willie and Frank Fyall's two oldest sons entered the war within a year of each other. Vernon served eight months in Vietnam with just four to go before he was killed. The oldest son, Frank, volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and was serving in Thailand.

After Vernon's death, the third Fyall son was drafted.

"I didn't want Daryl to go after this happened to his brother," Willie said. "I even called Washington, D.C., to try to stop them from taking another of my sons."

Daryl was drafted anyway, but returned home safely.

Never forget

To make sure the younger folks become acquainted with the hero in their family, the Fyalls bring out Vernon's letters, share stories and pass around yearbooks from Robert Smalls High School, which show Vernon as co-captain of football team.

"Growing up as a young man, he had a very strong character," said Hilda Fyall, the eldest Fyall sister. "Everybody loved him."

Every Memorial Day and Veterans Day since Vernon's death, the family has honored him by driving a car or walking in the parade with pictures of him. In the early days, former Port Royal Mayor Henry Robinson drove a car and Vernon's father rode in it with pictures of Vernon on the side.

Willie prefers the ceremony inside the cemetery.

"Just being there is my way of still remembering him," she said.

"Vernon would be tickled pink," his sister Pauline said, if he knew that his sisters, niece and great niece and great nephew were continuing to honor him. This year, Pauline, 60, and Vernon's oldest sister, Hilda, 65, will drive the car decorated with his pictures.

Pauline's daughter, Germaine Dawson, and granddaughter, Jonqiue Dawson, will walk with the Beaufort High School band in which Pauline's grandson, Jaleel Dawson, 14, will be playing the snare.

Vernon has been remembered by many. The now-defunct Cpl. Vernon R. Fyall Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9166 on Old Shell Road in Port Royal was dedicated to him.

A frame of military ribbons on the wall of the family room brings back the memories of that time when Vernon didn't come home many years ago. But the pain is still there.

"It is hard even up until today. It is still hard," Pauline said.

What really happened?

Vernon's mother still questions how he died. She was told by U.S. Army officials that he was shot by a sniper while on guard duty. But several years ago, on a late night encounter on Sams Point Road, a local soldier told her that Vernon was killed when a bomb exploded when the pair went through a thicket.

"To this very day, I have never run into that boy again," said Willie, 82, still wondering what really happened to her beloved son.

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