An article in The American Legion Magazine of October 2020 describes “America’s Soviet Ship.” The 15,804-ton vessel was built during the Cold War in the Soviet Union. It was launched in 1989 as Vladimir Vaslyaev. The U.S. Navy acquired the ship on the commercial market some years later. After refitting, the vessel joined Military Sealift Command in 2003. The vessel was named for Roy M. Wheat, a native of Moselle, Miss. Normally American naval ships are built in the USA - this is one exception.
Wheat was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam when he threw himself on a mine to save two fellow Marines. Wheat arrived in Vietnam in March 1967, and was assigned duty as a rifleman with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. His unit participated in numerous combat operations, including DeSoto, Webster, Arizona, Butler and Gem. Wheat was buried at Eastabuchie Cemetery in Mississippi; he was 20 years old.
In 2003, the Navy named its newest prepositioning ship USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016). The enlisted dining facility at Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi was named after him in 1985, and Interstate 59 in Mississippi was named the "Roy Wheat Memorial Highway."
Scores of pictures of Mississippi Vietnam veterans who gave their lives in the war are memorialized on the walls of the Mississippi Vietnam Memorial, located at 3730 Bienville Blvd., Ocean Springs, Miss.