The Valdosta Daily Times
Start with the number: 58,282.
For each one, add two: a mother and a father. Add another two: a brother and a sister. Add eight: aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Add friends.
Then for each one add 30, the average size of a Vietnam platoon and that number — 21 million — gives you an idea of the impact of each American death in the Vietnam War.
Each one of the names is inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and each one of the names is inscribed on The Moving Wall, a half-sized Vietnam War Memorial that tours the country every year.
This year, this weekend, it’s in Cook County, just off of Exit 39 at the Welcome Center.
“This wall, it means a lot to me,” said Tim Balch at the opening ceremonies. “And the names on the wall mean a lot to me. When they returned home, they didn’t have the parades and accolades we have today. Today, we need to welcome these guys back.”
“We really don’t know (what it was like),” said Major Joseph Barnard, commander for the 38th Rescue Squadron out of Moody. “The horrors of war were sometimes callously forgotten. ... Cook County, this wall and this war was personal for you. ... We are humbled by the sacrifice. We will never forget.”
Although the Moving Wall was just installed on Thursday, thousands of people have already visited it. Some walk right up to the wall; others are more hesitant. John Brisk, a member of the planning committee that has been working to bring the Moving Wall here for the last year and a half, tells a
story of a veteran who came late Thursday night. He stood 20 yards away from the wall — just being in its presence. He left, coming back a couple of hours before sunrise with photos of the friends he lost decades ago. He slowly, achingly, made his way to the wall and found their names.
The names start in the center of the wall with the first casualty, Dale R. Buis, and they wrap back around to the middle with the last casualty, Richard Vande Geer. In this sense, the names never really end and the wall never really ends. Neither does remembering.
The wall is open 24/7 until Sept. 30, when it will be taken down at noon. The evening of September 29, the Wall will be private for Vietnam veterans and Gold Star families from 6-10 p.m.
If you can, go. Start with the middle and work your way around.