Visit to Wall of Names emotional for Vietnam veterans from ND

Published: May. 3, 2023 at 5:30 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KFYR) - Earlier this week, the veterans on the Western North Dakota Honor Flight returned to Bismarck. For most of them, the visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the most emotional stop along the way.

In talking to the veterans on the Western ND Honor Flight at the beginning of their trip to Washington, D.C., we learned most were preparing for the visit to the iconic Wall of Names at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Some brought photos, others brought items to leave behind. They were looking to pay respects, and all of them were looking for a name.

Ninety-nine veterans made the trip to Washington, D.C. Eighty-eight of them served in Vietnam.

As they stepped into the 400-foot-long memorial, they waded into their memories.

“He was a medic in Vietnam. I went to school with his wife,” Ralph Lawler, a veteran, said.

Visiting the memorial Wall of Names, they saw their stories reflected on that massive dark granite.

“I stuck back and they went to Cambodia and I never saw them again,” Gerald Perala, a veteran, said.

A Veterans of Foreign Wars report says there are 58,281 names on the wall. Every single one had a story, a buddy and a bond never broken. Ray Geffre, a Vietnam veteran, described it as “friends for life.”

Even those who had been to the memorial site before said they felt something different on this day, being surrounded by their brothers in uniform. The veterans brought home photos and sketches of those names that have been living in their hearts, still dedicated to each other after all these years.

Veterans of the Vietnam War recalled what it felt like to come home from their service. Some were spit at. Some were bumped off their flights for college students taking priority. But on this trip, school children came to shake their hands and people clapped, held doors open for them and thanked them for their service at every stop.

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