A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall opened to the public Thursday at Fort Gordon after a solemn ceremony.
Calling it a “tremendous opportunity for the community,” Col. Robert Barker, the garrison commander, invited people to visit the three-quarter-scale model of the national monument over Memorial Day weekend.
“For our veterans, this display provides a time for remembrance, healing and reflection. For those who didn’t serve, the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall offers a chance to honor our veterans,” Barker told a crowd of civilians, uniformed service members and veterans.
The black granitelike wall stretches 244 feet long, stands 8 feet tall and bears the names of more than 58,000 service members killed in action or declared missing during the Vietnam War.
Remarks during Thursday’s ceremony acknowledged the controversy surrounding the war and the opening of the monument in 1984.
That monument has become one of the most visited war memorials since its opening, said retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Hussey. During his four tours in Vietnam, Hussey met 67 of the people whose names are on the wall.
Visitors to the monument in Barton Field, adjacent to Rice Road, also have a chance to examine tables stacked with memorabilia from the war.
Army veteran John Hosier collected the ration tins, flags, weapons and other gear as a visual representation of his 36 months in Vietnam.
The images he took as a combat photographer draw visitors into the heart of battle and daily life for grunts.
“This is a way to bring people closer” to the war, Hosier said.