Vietnam Moving Wall brings memories, closure for visitors

Images of the present merge with those of the past as a family visits the Vietnam Moving Wall Sunday at Crestview Memorial Park in Wichita Falls. The wall is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Drivers take the wall around the country to remind those of the lives lost during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tonnette Thompson).

Images of the present merge with those of the past as a family visits the Vietnam Moving Wall Sunday at Crestview Memorial Park in Wichita Falls. The wall is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Drivers take the wall around the country to remind those of the lives lost during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tonnette Thompson).

A single rose lays at the base of section 19 of the Vietnam Moving Wall as a tribute to fallen military personnel. The Moving Wall traveled to Wichita Falls June 13 and was open to the public June 16 through Sunday. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tonnette Thompson).

A single rose lays at the base of section 19 of the Vietnam Moving Wall as a tribute to fallen military personnel. The Moving Wall traveled to Wichita Falls June 13 and was open to the public June 16 through Sunday. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tonnette Thompson).

Momentos adorn the “heart” of the Vietnam Moving Wall Sunday at Crestview Memorial Park. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tonnette Thompson).

Momentos adorn the “heart” of the Vietnam Moving Wall Sunday at Crestview Memorial Park. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tonnette Thompson).

Vietnam Veteran Joel Jimenez runs his finger across the name of a fallen Soldier engraved in the Vietnam Moving Wall Friday after a ceremony opened up the memorial to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo/Debi Smith).

Vietnam Veteran Joel Jimenez runs his finger across the name of a fallen Soldier engraved in the Vietnam Moving Wall Friday after a ceremony opened up the memorial to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo/Debi Smith).

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A searing heat spread across the dry, cracked landscape as small red, white and blue flags flapped in the warm wind. It was a typical Texas summer day at Crestview Memorial Park in Wichita Falls. 

Families made the journey this Father's Day to pay respect to dads who had long since passed. 

But a stark reminder of the price to honor fathers lay toward the front of the cemetery Sunday, towering over the gravestones that scattered the ground. The Vietnam Moving Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., carries more than 58,000 names of men and women who died while promoting democracy in the war-torn Southeast Asian country. 

The wall rolled into the area June 13 and was opened to the public June 16 through Sunday. 

"We have to honor our dead and our living, the young warriors," said Joel Jimenez, commander of the local Disabled American Veterans chapter and a Vietnam Veteran. "(There's) a lot of mending, a lot of mourning, and most of all a lot of closure" that comes to everyone who visits the wall. 

The same scene played out during the wall's three-day stay in North Texas. Families wept for the loss of their father as fathers and mothers consoled each other as they stared at their child's name on the wall. 

Survivors had the all-too-common thought of "why me?" It's an inevitable experience of emotions that accompanies each stop of the memorial, but lingers days, months and sometimes years after it leaves. 

The impact of the moving wall wasn't reserved for only those who represented the families of those names on the memorial. It was also felt by military members of Sheppard as they helped prepare the site, unload, construct and disassemble the traveling monument. 

Staff Sgt. Patrick Granes, the noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of the 82nd Civil Engineer Squadron's vertical construction and heavy repair shop, said seeing the wall brought a new understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices his father made as a Marine in Vietnam. 

"It's important to have that wall" to remind people of the hardships and sacrifices made then and those same hardships and sacrifices endured today, Sergeant Granes said.
The sergeant said it was important for young Airmen who participated in the seven-days of preparation, set-up, monitoring and tear down to view the wall. 

"It puts things into perspective as far as what you're here for and what your job is," he said. "They need to know." 

What they now know is the result of an unpopular war that took thousands of lives in the name of democracy. What they now know, too, is the price that is paid today to keep that same principle alive in another foreign land.