The Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall |

The Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall

Kim Doose

Once a soldier, always a soldier.No one knows that more than the veterans of the Kelly-Hansen Post No. 78 of the American Legion, in Rifle.Commander Jan Detwiler, who was a lance corporal in the Marine Corps in 1958-61, and Dean Wells, senior vice commander, who served in the army 1984-87, led their post on an 18-month mission that brought the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall to Rifle June 18-25.According to Detwiler, together, they ate, slept and breathed The Wall, and to some, it might have felt like they were in the military again. It was the entire post that was behind this, said Wells.And while they had tremendous support from the community, there were a few critics.They said people wouldnt come out, said legion member Ralph Koehler. We proved them wrong. More than 10,000 came. And one night, as 50 people watched, even nature came by to pay its respect.In 1980 when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial committee realized how difficult it would be to create a monument that would honor the dead and heal a nation bitterly divided by the war, they believed the best way to find the right memorial was to hold a national design competition. Maya Lin, a 21-year-old Chinese-American architecture student at Yale University won the honor. At the time, she was enrolled in a funeral architecture class.Two of the criteria the veterans required were that The Wall make no political statement and that all the names be listed. The Wall begins with two blank black panels and then rises and gradually adds names in chronological order, sequenced in time from 1959, when the first conflict in Vietnam started to 1975 when it ended.The largest panels, which have 137 lines of names in the middle, appear to loom and dominate and show how, at the crux of the war, it engaged the nation. As visitors quietly contemplate the stretch of names, the polished black marble acts as a haunting mirror of a history that for some, is still too fresh. The names end as they begin, few in number with two blank black panels at the end that forever link 58,249 men and women.On the fourth night, as members of the American Legion and other volunteers guarded the area and admired the beauty of a full moon that shone down on the wall, they noticed how, for a few moments, it reflected the sunset in its colors of burnt orange and red. But a few minutes later when a cloud rolled up and threatened to blanket the moon, the cloud abruptly changed its course and left the moon to its lone, dutiful shine. I just knew that moon was looking down on those boys, Detwiler said.John Steer, who fought in two of the worst battles of the war, spoke at the opening ceremony. As a recipient of two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star, he remembered his own tour of duty and with his right arm, now replaced with a hook, he pointed to the wall, to panel 30 to the names of 287 of his fellow fallen comrades.Thats an expensive wall.

Vietnam veteran Sandy Vaccaro, of Rifle, served in the army in 1969.

Shawn and Chamaigne Wade, of Rifle.

Boy Scout Chad Schilt, of Rifle.

Vietnam veteran Jim Gerloff, of Rifle, served in the army from 1966-72.

Colorado State troopers J.A. Lemoine, left, of Battlement Mesa and Eric Westphal, of Rifle.

Melinda Merrell lays a wreath for her brother, Tom Griffee, who graduated from Rifle High School in 1965 and was killed in Vietnam in 1967.

Vietnam veteran JD Diaz, left, of Crawford, who served in the Navy 1968-69, and Ted Diaz Jr., of Rifle, find the name of Michael Gonzales, who graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 1966 and was killed in Vietnam in 1969.

Vietnam veteran Dick Maddock, left, of Silt, served in the army 1970-71, and Ken Hoer, of Silt, was a civilian in Vietnam who worked for Pacific Architects & Engineers 1967-71.

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