Ceremony concludes Vietnam Wall visit in Collier

In their words

— A group of men clad in green fatigues moves slowly, rifles in hand, across the Naples Memorial Funeral Home lawn.

Those watching are transported back four decades, tromping through the soggy underbrush of the North Vietnam landscape with the men, all members of the nonprofit group Last Patrol.

They are not re-enactors, said Air Force Sgt. Ted Marshall, but the people who performed the actual missions recaptured by the group. They were the highlight Sunday evening of the closing ceremony for the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“We are all veterans,” said Marshall, a member of the Air Force canine unit. “We are doing the job we did in Vietnam.”

The men who now take part in the last patrol were charged with going behind enemy lines to recover prisoners of war and those missing in action.

“You will never be forgotten,” said Carolyn Marshall over a loudspeaker as the men made their slow progress, led by Ted Marshall, her husband.

Heads bowed as the nine men stopped, gathering around a rifle and helmet to honor a fallen soldier.

It was an exercise in mass catharsis, bringing closure to a weekend spent honoring the dead, the wounded, the lost. Scores of people gathered in spite of the dreary weather to pay final respects at the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall, which was escorted into town and assembled Sept. 24, open around the clock until the closing ceremony Sunday evening.

As the 7 p.m., ceremony drew near, people traced names on the wall, wet with rain and tears. A few stragglers used pencils to rub impressions of names onto paper, capturing a small piece of their lost loved ones.

“These are not just names,” reminded the Rev. Ron Patterson during an opening prayer. “These are the 58,260 stories of what might have been.”

At the end of their trek, as the light filtered through gray and pink clouds, the nine men stepped toward the wall. Some crouched in reflection, others stared plaintively at the names ahead of them, before saluting and walking away.

Finally, Bob McDonald bugled the melancholy strain of taps over the rapt crowd, as some shed tears and others stood at attention. McDonald, 84, was a sergeant in the Army Air Force during World War II.

He only knew a few people who served in Vietnam.

“That’s a younger generation,” he said.

But the veteran with lungs of steel said he jumps at any opportunity to honor his fellow servicemen.

“I’m glad to do it,” he said. “Because if it weren’t for the veterans, we wouldn’t have a free country.”

The wall, a faux-granite, three-quarter-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, came to Naples from Boulder, Colo. Its next stop is in Lake Charles, La., from Oct. 10 through 12.

© 2008 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 7

deltaraider21 writes:

There are 54 Delta Raider names on that wall. Each one had a family, and someone who loved and care deeply about them. They may be just names on a wall now, but once they were people and we should never forget that they died for this country.

www.deltaraiders.com

www.blackied2501.com

google "A hill called 805"

google Joe Hooper the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War was a Delta Raider

dcebak#14721 writes:

I was at The Wall most of the weekend. Four buddies names are there. One I wasn't there with, he was a little older, grew up with him and he went before me. He was our paper boy....

I can't remember two names, only new them for a day, a couple of Marines giving a squid a hard time. Wish I could remember.

MarcoRobert writes:

Home is the sailor, home from the sea
and the hunter home from the hill
58,260
God bless the survivors of the fallen

Ironside writes:

Hey LieStopper,

I just off the phone with JYD. It appears he's been permanently banned from these blogs.

This really surprises me. Though he and I have had our share of disagreements, he certainly was an intricate part of these forums and will be rally missed by most.

I hope NDN reconsider this action and allows him his posting privileges back soon.

Some of the members that were banned are warranted but I don’t see it in JYD’s case. I found him civil while debating politics especially in the past month.

I wonder if emmylopez, BTV, RockfordGrad, NeezDutz, GatorHater07, oldtimer, Sanity, beetlejuice, and so many others know about this.

What do NDN bloggers think about this? LieStopper?

Ironside writes:

God Bless Our Troops!

trueamerican writes:

While I was not in the Viet Nam War, when I enlisted in the USAF in "80", many of my NCO's were! They taught me how it was to become an American first and foremost, then they taught me how to become an Airman. I took Kim, with me and she never understood why I get so allmighty P.O.d, when things go on towards our Service Personnel, and our Vetrans. When we wre walking up to the Memorial, she grabbed my arm and asked, "Did all of these people really serve in Viet Nam?" I had a tuff time telling her, that no these were just the ones who had given thier lives for our country! And then I started crying, not outloud just too myself and when she saw the tears streaming down my cheeks, she realized how much this means too so many people! And before you ask yes I did loose family memebers, and I did find thier names on the wall. I hope that each of you take time to think about our troops of today, they need your prayers now more than ever, maybe even a care package or two probably would'nt hurt moral.

I do hope the NDN will rethink thier position on JYD, I too have enjoyed a few good banters with him in the past, and look forward to more in the future

D-IIIII writes:

Re: Post #6

Amen to that!!!

Also want to thank you both for your time served. That thank you is extended to everyone here who served in the Armed Forces. God Bless You All.

I also agree, Bring Back The Dog. I have seen nothing that would warrant him being bounced.

Ironside, how about an online petition that we could all sign. I know you've got the smarts to get something done.

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