The Vietnam Memorial still sparks memories and emotions even 42 years after the end of America’s second-longest war.
A scale model of the original, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was displayed for four days through Monday at Oswego’s PrairieFest Park.
The Vietnam Moving Wall was expected to attract thousands of visitors to view black metal panels containing the names of the 58,000-plus who were killed in the conflict or died from injuries.
Last Friday’s opening ceremonies on a sticky morning drew several hundred people ranging from families with young children to veterans of recent wars, the Vietnam era and even World War II.
“The crowd that we see out there today shows the support that we’ve gotten from this great community,” said Hershel Luckinbill, who served on the Oswego organizing committee. “It also shows that those 58,315 soldiers on that wall that we can and will never forget them.”
The wall, which measures 253 feet and is composed of 74 aluminum panels, took up significant portions of the park south of the village. The displays also included a “Healing Field” of American flags and even military equipment
Visitors were quiet and respectful as they walked past the panels, featuring the names of the dead in small white lettering.
A few visitors placed flowers or candid photos — snapshots of men who never came home from the rice paddies and jungles — images of 18, 19 or 20-year olds forever frozen in time.
Some children touched the names, adults took long looks at the panels while others wiped away tears.
Funds to bring the wall to Oswego were raised privately and volunteers helped run the four-day showing. It was the wall’s second visit to the region in recent years after Aurora hosted in 2013.
America’s involvement in Vietnam lasted from 1959 until an evacuation of remaining personnel in 1975 as a Communist government took command.
Today, the unified Vietnam is considered a friend and economic partner of the United States.
—Text and photos by Jack McCarthy / Chronicle Media