Moving experience

June Casagrande

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

years old.

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 &

Mortuary.

"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.

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