For a local father-son duo, Memorial Day has a special and generational meaning.
John and Victor Wyand both served in the Army and are active members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization.
John graduated from Berlin Brothersvalley High School in Berlin, Pennsylvania and served in the Vietnam War January 1969 – January 1970. Out of high school, he worked for the Army Map Service until he was drafted and sent overseas, working as a heavy vehicle operator.
“[In Vietnam], I drove dump trucks and anything that had a motor in it for a year,” John said.
Victor, John’s son, is a Falls Church native who graduated from George C. Marshall High School. He was on active duty in the Army February 2011 — May 2014, then transitioned to the Virginia National Guard, serving until May 2020. In active duty, he was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky and completed a nine-month tour in eastern Afghanistan.
Victor considered joining the Army after high school but decided against it, working in automotives as a mechanical apprentice. When he was 25, he enlisted and left for basic training.
“I decided that if I was going to [serve], that was the time to do it,” Victor said. “I just wanted to serve and protect and do my part.”
Reflecting on their time in the Army, John and Victor both cited the camaraderie between soldiers as something they are proud of and will always remember.
“We met a lot of great people who stepped up and did what they had to do and looked out for each other,” John said. “There are some folks that I will remember forever.”
Victor believes his time in the military helped shape his worldview.
“It’s just the perspective of what I have, and the freedom that I’m able to enjoy and the vast variety of all the people that I’ve gotten the chance to serve with,” he said.
John and Victor said being in the military brought them closer together and was beneficial to their relationship as father and son. Their shared experiences helped them bond and understand each other.
“We consoled each other afterwards, because we both went through the same thing, essentially,” John said. “I think we’re a lot closer.”
As two people who served, both believe Memorial Day is an opportunity to thank those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and signed the “blank check” to their country.
“It’s not just the guys and gals that didn’t come back,” Victor said. “It’s also people that didn’t come back the same anymore. Some people lose a significant part of themselves, not just physically, and you kind of have to memorialize that.”
“Some people, we don’t lose them in the war,” Victor continued. “We lose them after the fact because they lose the fight at home.”
Both will walk in the Falls Church Memorial Day Parade with the VFW, either handing out flags or riding in a vehicle representing the organization. Afterwards, the VFW will hold a cookout and other festivities, inviting the community to participate with them. They will teach local scout troops how to fold the American flag and lead them through a flag retirement ceremony.
Being a part of the VFW allows the Wyands to continue serving their community. The organization helps maintain the same camaraderie that both loved in their service, and provides help to veterans who need it. They work to ensure younger veterans have a community to be a part of, even if they did not deploy.
“The whole selfless service doesn’t stop after you get out,” Victor said. “And with organizations like the VFW, it becomes the shirt-off-your-back selfless service to your fellow veterans.”