FORT STEWART, GA -- Some say it's just a wall with names on it. They're wrong. Indeed, 58,244 names are memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the Moving Wall that was recently on display at J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill, Ga.
Each of those names represents a life given for this country, even though many still prefer to forget about the sacrifice they and their Families made. The Moving Wall lists the names of men and women of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces who gave their lives during the Vietnam War (1959-1975). The closing ceremony for the Moving Wall's last day in this area brought together community and military leaders.
These men and women fought in an unpopular war, but they did fight nonetheless and they gave their all. They gave their lives. The least America can do is remember these heroes, which is why the Moving Wall travels to communities throughout the country, so those citizens who might never visit the nation's capital may have an opportunity visit the Wall, find the name of a loved one on the Wall and etch that Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman's name on a piece of paper and keep it as a memory.
"Let me tell you a true story about a name on that wall," Shirley Vining said, her silver hair blowing in the breeze as she introduced her sister, Frankie Yawn, seated next to her. "It was the day before Easter when our neighbor, Henry O. Martin III came over to our house. We lived in Savannah. Our mama was making flower arrangements to put out on the graves at the cemetery the next day. He asked her what she was doing, and she told him. He grew up here too, had just gotten married and was now stationed here. When Mama told him about the flower arrangements, he asked her if she'd make one for him when he died. She promised she would. He told her his favorite color was 'yaller.' That's the way he said it. But don't you know, the following Easter my mama was making a yellow flower arrangement for Henry. He got killed over there shortly after he got there."
Vining's story was like so many being shared before the ceremony began. But most visitors to the Wall just wanted to find the name of their loved one, which Jimmy Waynick of the Vietnam Veterans of America gladly helped them do. He'd take them to the right panel on the Wall then go down the right row and find their hero. Then he was likely to share one of his experiences from the war while serving as a military policeman with the 1st Cavalry Division.
The narrator for the closing ceremony was Bill Edwards of WTKS FOX AM 1290. Sgt. Jason Cramer led the 3rd Infantry Division Color Guard, which consisted of Pfc. Kenneth Roberts, Sgt. Reinaldo Lopez, Spc. Eric Irwin, Pvt. Edwin Allen and Spc. Michael Langlois. Invocation and benediction was said by Pastor Carlton Cooper of Bethel Baptist Church, Richmond Hill. The national anthem was sang with passion by little Hanna Suddath, 9.
Guests speakers included Steve Scholar, a retired Air Force veteran now chief of Planning and Zoning for Richmond Hill; Greg MacDougal, commander for American Legion Post 27; Paul Spence, past president for Vietnam Veterans of America Post 789; and Ray Gaster with Vietnam Veterans of America Post 671. Maj. Doug Wesner, 2nd Brigade Combat Team rear detachment commander was the keynote speaker.
Following Wesner's remarks, the colors were retrieved by the Color Guard while Boy Scout brothers Evan and Graham Garrett played Taps. Edwards then gave closing remarks, telling the scores of community members present that his own military service was during the Vietnam era but that it was "totally unremarkable." He said though he has an undying respect for those who fought and promised to always support veterans, past and present.