Monday, August 22, 2011

Moving Vietnam wall exhibit brings memorial to Valley veterans by Maria PollettaThe Arizona Republic


One of our loyal readers asked us to post this important story:

Gerald Van Slyke was headed down a hallway at the Phoenix VA hospital after grabbing a quick cup of coffee when he saw it.

The "Bringing Home the Wall" exhibit, which includes a scaled-down replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., opened for a three-day run on Wednesday at the Phoenix VA Health Care System

Van Slyke, who served in the war from 1968-1970, was at the hospital for a routine appointment and didn't know it would be there.

He stopped short, asking for help to find the name of his former lieutenant, John Earl Warren Jr. Reaching a shaking hand up to rest his fingers on the name, he was silent for several minutes as his eyes filled with tears.

"It's like reaching out and touching someone from 40 years ago," he said. "Only he can't reach back."

Warren died in a firefight on Jan. 14, 1969, after throwing himself on a grenade to shield other soldiers. Van Slyke saw it happen.

Other veterans and their families shared similar stories as they, along with visitors and hospital employees and patients, stopped to touch and talk about the more than 58,000 fatalities named on the roughly 8- by 46-foot aluminum replica.

The display will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Friday.

Because many veterans and family members are unable to travel to Washington, D.C., to view the actual memorial, a handful of traveling replicas regularly tour the U.S., bringing the memorial to them. The "Bringing Home the Wall" replica is the only one tailored to be displayed indoors.

The display also includes a set "dinner table" that represents prisoners of war and missing-in-action soldiers who will never return home and a panel with the names of Arizona soldiers killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The panel will be donated to the VA hospital when the wall replica moves on.

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