Replica Vietnam Memorial arrives at Fort Gordon

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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.

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Soldiers carry pieces of a traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, which contains the names of all the Americans killed or MIA during the war.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Soldiers carry pieces of a traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, which contains the names of all the Americans killed or MIA during the war.

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.

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stillamazed 05/23/12 - 08:09 am

I don't think that the reality of the toll of the Vietnam War came to me until I visited the memorial in Washington. I could not get over the thousands of names and when you look at the reference book it has the ages and so very many (the majority) were younger than my son is now which is 26. It is so sad to look at all those names and think what kind of lives they could have had if not for that war. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice and many are still suffering. Thanks to them the vets today are treated much better and they should thank the comrades that came before them and made that possible.

No_Longer_Amazed 05/23/12 - 10:05 am
Average age.

In Vietnam the average age of a combat soldier was 19.

Tots 05/23/12 - 10:03 pm

I was on Bobby Jones around 12:45, when some twenty five or more motorcycles passed by me with large flags flying and a few police motorcycles with their lights flashing leading an 18 wheeler truck with Dignity painted on the side...It was a really cool thing to see..

I'm definitely going to try to go see this memorial tomorrow or Friday..

egilsrosalie 05/24/12 - 10:08 am
Vietnam Memorial Wall

It is indeed a time to remember those who paid the ultimate price during the Vietnam conflict. But let's not forget the estimated 500,000 Vietnamese that lost their lives during the same conflict.

Jake 05/24/12 - 07:03 pm

I saw this traveling memorial when it came out here about 10yrs ago. I know four on the wall. The one I knew the best was A1C James Hopkins from New York. He was in the process of getting a humanitarian discharge so he could go home and take over his families small farm because his dad suffered a heart attack and there was no one else to take over. We had a rocket attack at night on May 4th 1970. While we were being dispatched to the perimeter at Bien Hoa Air Base with M-16's, the flatbed truck he was riding on was side swiped by an Air Force bus and he was killed instantly. I have always wondered what happened to his family and their farm. RIP Jim, you are not forgotten.

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