Lives We Have Lost: Vietnam memorial replica tour brings ‘the wall’ to East Texas

Published on Friday, 23 May 2014 23:18 - Written by Betty Waters

PALESTINE — Gazing at the American Veterans traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, often referred as “the wall,” on display at the Palestine depot of Texas State Railroad, Angie Smith said, “It’s sad … it’s emotional.”

Ms. Smith, of Cumby, found the name of a high school classmate, Larry Gene Pyle, on the wall and did a rubbing on a sheet of his name.

“It’s sad that this many young men lost their life (in the war). You have to think about the lives that we lost and what they could have done and been and yet they were cut short,” Ms. Smith said.

“I’ve always wanted to see (the wall). I can’t go to Washington (to see the original), so (seeing the replica) is a great substitute,” she said.

The replica of the wall and Cost of Freedom exhibit is the centerpiece of the 16th annual Salute to the Armed Forces on the Palestine grounds of Texas State Railroad.

The salute also showcases military re-enactments, living history exhibits, static military displays, food vendors, children’s activities and many other attractions.

The event will continue 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday, although the wall will be available for viewing 24 hours a day.

The replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is 80 percent the size of the original in Washington, D.C., and 360 feet long.

“It’s big and impressive,” Janet Gregg, marketing and public relations manager for the Texas State Railroad, said.

It bears all the names inscribed on the original wall. The wall honors the more than 58,000 American military personnel who died or are missing in the controversial Vietnam War.

There are benches where visitors can sit and look at the wall.

Under a tent, computers and books are available to help them find the location of particular names among the thousands listed on the wall. Sheets and pencils also are furnished for them to do rubbings of names on the wall.

Wanda Bing Thompson, of Palestine, said, “I’m so glad they brought it to Palestine. We started at the front and we walked to the end. We prayed for our country, and we prayed for the families that lost loved ones in the war, friends and neighbors. … This (wall) is a wonderful thing for us to take notice of and be grateful for what they (those killed in the war) did.”

Robert Lee Hall, of Palestine, said, “It’s a great display. It’s similar to the wall in Washington, D.C. It’s a cut-down version.”

Statistics cited in other displays show that the cost of freedom from all U.S. wars has been high in terms of how many served in the wars, the missing in action, the wounded and those who died.

In the Vietnam War, which stretched from 1955 to 1975, about 3.1 million served in the war, 1,802 are missing in action, 153,303 were wounded and 58,253 died, according to the exhibit.

In the American Revolution, from 1775 to 1783, approximately 250,000 served, of whom 1,426 were missing in action, 6,188 were wounded and 4,500 died.

Approximately 4.7 million served in World War I from 1917 to 1918, of whom 4,452 were missing in action, 204,000 were wounded and 53,400 died.

The costs of World War II were much higher. About 16.1 million served in the war; 78,773 are missing in action, 671,846 were wounded and 293,000 died.

The Salute to the Armed Forces event and parking are free, although there is a charge for food and other items visitors buy at booths.

The East Texas A Cappella Ensemble will perform patriotic music at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. today.

Exhibits include Vietnam time line panels, the Walk of Heroes collection, the World War II tribute collection, the Korea tribute collection, the 9/11 tribute, a collection of conflict photos and listing of names of casualties between 1980 and 2000, the Gold Dog Tag collection for the Global war on Terror casualties, the commander in chief panels with photos of all U.S. presidents, police and fire tribute panels, the Fort Hood tribute panel and other informational panels.

Numerous other exhibits are set up by Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, city of Palestine, Women on the Home Front, AAA Texas, White Cross, Palestine Regional Medical Center, Anderson and Cherokee county veterans services officers, civil war military provost, Palestine Fire Department, American Legion Post 152, Palestine Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety.

Other attractions include face painting, vintage military memorabilia sale, a bubble station, temporary tattoos, snow cones, and a kiddie train ride.

The “Patriot Train” will run at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to the Jarvis wye, stop and return. Current and former military with identification will be allowed to ride free.