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Vietnam wall draws emotions

Locals trek to memorial in Pooler

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POSTED: November 1, 2010 2:29 p.m.
Photo by Hollie Moore Barnidge/

The Moving Wall, which is a scale model of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, stretches 255 feet.

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An inscription at the top of the glossy, black Vietnam Veterans Memorial partially relays the stories of countless men and women who can’t tell their own:
“In honor of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States who served in the Vietnam War. The names of those who gave their lives and of those who remain missing are inscribed in the order they were taken from us.”
The Moving Wall, a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., arrived at the Pooler Recreation Complex on Thursday. It is open to the public. Pooler is the second-to-last stop on the nationwide tour.
Visitors can walk along the 255-foot-long wall, which displays the names of soldiers who were lost or killed in action during the Vietnam War.
According to the city of Pooler’s website, www.pooler-ga.us, the wall has been touring the country for more than 20 years and originally was constructed by Vietnam veterans for its first display in Tyler, Texas, in 1984.
The replica will be open to the public 24 hours a day until 10 a.m. Monday, said Dale Saunders, a retired Marine Corp volunteer who assisted with setup and helped bring the memorial to Pooler.   
The free exhibit is sponsored by the West Chatham Detachment # 1326, and about 70 volunteers are staffing the site throughout the weekend to assist visitors looking for names.
“It is a very emotional thing, especially for Vietnam Vets,” Saunders said. “Until you get out there and see it, you don’t realize how moving it is.”
Saunders said he and other local vets lobbied for the past year to bring the wall to the area. The city paid $4,500 for the setup and fees associated with bringing the structure into town.
A few days before the panels were scheduled to arrive, 20 volunteers set up the support base, beams and walkways to give the wall a solid platform, Saunders said.
Vietnam veterans from Liberty County had plans to visit the exhibit over the weekend to honor fallen soldiers.
“I’m going up to pay my respects to the wall,” said Dennis Fitzgerald, American Legion 321 post commander.
Fitzgerald said he would make the trip to Pooler with about five other veterans from the group who visited The Moving Wall when it came to Fort Stewart several years ago.
“To me, it is important for a sense of healing and remembrance and reverence,” said Fitzgerald, who had a list of 17 names he wanted to find on the memorial.
Joseph Garcia, West Chatham American Legion Post 322 adjutant, escorted visitors around the site Friday, helping them locate soldiers’ names.
“As far as I personally am concerned, this is the best way we can recognize and remember our past, because this is part of our history now,” he said.
Garcia explained that each service member’s name is marked by one of two symbols: a diamond or a cross. The diamond symbol denotes that the service member’s death was confirmed. The cross symbol denotes the soldier was in missing or prisoner status at the end of the war and remains missing and unaccounted for.
Saunders said visitors looking for a specific name can seek help at the wall’s information booth.
“It is an awesome site,” Fitzgerald said. “If you never have been to the one in D.C., it will move you almost as much as the one in D.C.”
The closing ceremony and remarks are schedule for 10 a.m. Monday.
 

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