Thousands visited Memorial Wall in New York Mills
NEW YORK MILLS -- An estimated 4,500 to 5,000 people were drawn to New York Mills over the weekend to view the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall, this according to the organizing committee's estimates.
With two ceremonies featuring Vietnam veterans and other speakers each day, a steady stream of people from around the region attended this 4-day event.
Among the speakers was Perham's Dr. Bill Rose, a Marine who remembers returning from Vietnam.
"When I first got back, you really didn't want anybody to know you were there. You didn't hang your head in shame, but you didn't advertise it either," said Rose. "Then in the 1990's, people started to say 'thank you for your service.' I didn't really know how to respond. I'd never heard that before."
One of the things drilled home in the Marines was: "The most important person in the world is the one standing next to you," said Rose. "Wouldn't it be great if we could we could say that (in our civilian lives) today?"
All of them dead--only one war
A New York Mills fifth grader looked up at VFW Post 3289 Past-Commander Gerald "Hacker" Anderson. Awestruck after scanning across 58,000-plus names on "The Wall," she had a question:
"Are those all the names from every war we fought?"
"No," responded Anderson, a Vietnam veteran himself, "this was just one war."
In 1982, Anderson had the distinction of witnessing the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.
"It was a humbling experience," said Anderson, who counts the names of three buddies on "The Wall."
"That started the long healing process that continues today," said Anderson, who spoke at the Saturday morning ceremonies at "The Wall" at the NY Mills VFW Club.
"Wall" inspired memories of Lincoln's famous words
There was a time when every school boy and girl had to memorize President Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address."
That was a long time ago, and most of those who learned the Civil War address never uttered those historic words again--at least, not by memory.
But for Arles Kumpula, an officer with the Ladies Auxiliary, VFW Post 3289; those words from her childhood five or more decades ago came mysteriously back to her last week--inspired by the solemn ceremonies at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
"Those words came out of nowhere," said Kumpula.
"I was spoken to in the night, with those words from Abraham Lincoln," said Kumpula, who delivered a message at the Saturday morning ceremonies at "The Wall." "And I felt I just had to share them with you today..."
"...It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
"Page turned" for Vietnam vets
Speaking Saturday morning at "The Wall" was State Rep. Mark Murdock.
A crowd estimated at 250 was on hand for the program.
On "The Wall" was a name from Murdock's youth, an acquaintance from his hometown of Owatonna. He lamented how Vietnam veterans did not always receive the respect when they returned.
"Today, more than 85 percent of Americans look favorably on Vietnam veterans," said Murdock. "So, the page has been turned...And it should have been turned a long time ago."
Remembers Bob Hope Christmas show in Vietnam
Despite the painful memories of colleagues who were killed in Vietnam, there was at least one fond recollection for Tim Bauer, who served from 1967-69.
The Commander of Frazee VFW Post 7702 recalled the names of five soldiers and friends whose names are on "The Wall."
"Well, one thing I can say is that I sat in the front row for Bob Hope's Christmas show," said Bauer with a smile, concluding his message at the Saturday ceremonies at "The Wall."
Area veteran was among first donors to "Wall" fundraising
Retired Marine staff sergeant Robert Carter and his wife Wanda traveled from Snellman for the Saturday, Sept. 12 ceremonies.
"The Wall" has special significance for Carter, for seven or more reasons.
Six of his fellow boot camp graduates were killed in Vietnam. Carter himself served there, in 1965--just as the U.S. was increasing its military commitment to South Vietnam.
Another reason the Vietnam memorial is significant to Carter: He is believed to have contributed the first $10 to the fundraising effort that eventually created the traveling Vietnam "Wall." He donated as part of a drive among fellow employees at Barrel O' Fun, where Carter works.
Carter continues to have a personal interest in U.S. troops serving overseas. His son is in Iraq now; and his nephew has served in the Middle East for five tours.
Students from throughout area visited "The Wall"
The Traveling Wall weekend started out with over 1,000 students attending the event Thursday and Friday. New York Mills students were bussed over to take part in Friday's activities. Perham students also visited "The Wall."
"Many came during the rains, but it didn't falter their spirits," said Rhonda Myers-Schornack, V.F.W. Post 3289 Auxiliary President. "Quite a few of the teachers came up to us and thanked us for being able to bring this to our community so that the students would have a visual of the Vietnam wall and it's 58,253 casualties."