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May 30, 2016

Almost 50 years after their deaths, two Philly soldiers honored at Vietnam Memorial Wall

Francis G. Corcoran and George L. Wilson both died while serving in Vietnam

Almost 50 years after two soldiers from Philadelphia gave their last full measure of devotion to their country, their names joined those of 646 fellow veterans at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (PVMM) in Penn's Landing.

A ceremony on Monday honored Master Sgt. Francis G. Corcoran, a Port Richmond native, and Master Sgt. George L. Wilson, a 1948 graduate of Frankford High School. It is the first time in 13 years that the PVMM has added any names to the wall. 

As the PVMM said in a releaseCorcoran and Wilson both fell ill and later died in military hospitals while serving in the Vietnam War.

Corcoran served 20 years in the Army and rose up to the ranks of Green Beret before dying of hepatitis at age 39. The Northeast Times noted that he left behind eight children ranging from 2 years old to 16 years old. Were he alive today, he would have met his 19 grandchildren.

Corcoran's family fought for years to add his name to Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.,  but his name was kept off the list because did not die on Vietnamese soil — he was flown to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. and perished there. 

He was, however, posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Wilson was an imagery analyst while serving his tour in Vietnam, which began in July 1967. He died at the age of 43 after being medivacked to Japan in November of that year because of pancreatitis and related illnesses. 

In 2013 the Department of Defense changed its mind and agreed to add the Philly veterans' names to the list. Their names were chiseled into the D.C. memorial, known simply as "The Wall," last May.

“I’m proud of him,” said Corcoran's widow, Elizabeth Corcoran, to NBC 10. “I was thrilled because he was a soldier to the core. I’m sure he’s up there smiling that he finally made it on the wall.”

“It is another reminder of the toll the war took on not just members of the Armed services, but on their families as well," said Terry A. Williamson, PVVM Fund president.