Rob Robinson has walked near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., on several occasions, but the memories it holds have kept him from actually visiting the monument.
He is still not sure he’ll be able to face the replica that opens to the public Thursday at Fort Gordon’s Barton Field.
Knowing 37 of the service members whose names are on that wall “makes it very emotional for me,” said Robinson, one of roughly two dozen American Legion Riders who escorted a tractor-trailer from the Alabama line on Tuesday.
The truck held 48 panels of fake granite, which together form a three-quarter-scale wall that’s 244 feet long and 8 feet tall. Inscribed on the wall are the names of more than 58,000 service members killed in action or declared missing during the Vietnam War.
The replica, sponsored by a network of funeral homes called Dignity Memorial, has traveled around the country since 1990. The stop in Augusta coincides with Memorial Day weekend, which is the “most coveted weekend and day,” said Pat Garrett, of Elliott Funeral Homes, the local Dignity Memorial representative.
Whether it’s in Washington or a replica, the memorial “is a very moving experience,” Garrett said.
It takes about eight hours to assemble the wall, which will open with a special ceremony at 9 a.m. Thursday. After that, the wall will be open to the public 24 hours a day until a closing ceremony at 6 p.m. Monday. A vigil will be held at 9 p.m. Sunday.
Robinson, who served four tours in Vietnam, said the memorial makes up for the shabby treatment that many Vietnam veterans received coming home. In the same way, the memorial is a way for America to make peace with Vietnam veterans, he said.
“There’s healing on both sides,” Robinson said.