The oldest was just 37. The youngest, only 15. The average age of the
58,227 men and eight women named on the wall was between 19 and 20
In a somber and heartfelt ceremony, locals gathered to remember
those who gave their lives during the Vietnam War, at the Vietnam
Wall Experience, a two-thirds scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial in Washington, D.C, at Pacific View Memorial Park &
"Many confused our warriors with the war they hated," said Justice
Eileen Moore, a lieutenant and former nurse in the Marine Corps who
told listeners that those who died deserve recognition as heroes who
made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Moore was one of speakers at Friday's opening ceremony. The
replica will be displayed at the cemetery through Sunday.
"The wall holds a special talent to heal the hearts and the hopes
of those that stand before it to look at the names of their friends
and loved ones who died," said Janet Franks, whose son Barry died in
1969 in Vietnam.
"We had always taught our children that freedom doesn't come
free," Franks told the rapt and emotional crowd.
The ceremony included a proclamation by Mayor Tod Ridgeway to
declare this month Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Month in the city of
Newport Beach. The color guard of the Santiago High School ROTC,
patriotic songs by AmyJo Ellis and bagpipe music by Jim Eaton added
to the emotion of the moment.
"Our veterans deserve our undying respect and devotion," said Gary
Alls, a Garden Grove resident and Vietnam veteran who scoured the
wall for names of his fallen comrades.
In one hand, Alls held a list of eight names of the men with whom
he once fought side by side. On the other hand, Alls' wrist carries
an homage to a man he never met. Timothy Bodden was in Laos the same
time as Alls, just one of many similarities that make it all to clear
to Alls that it could have been his name on the wall.
"If we don't remember them, who will?" Alls said.
A closing ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Dignity Memorial, a network of funeral homes and cemeteries,
created the replica in 1990. The next stop on its 19-city 2004 tour
will be Oceanside.