The Moving Wall Stops In Eugene
Not everyone can trek to our nation's capitol to see the real thing. So for the past 30 years, a smaller version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall has traveled the country.
On Thursday the replica wall opened at Skinner Butte Park in Eugene.
More than 700 Oregonians lost their lives in the Vietnam War. 75 of them were from Lane County.
Kneeling down in front of the wall, burning sage and waving an eagle feather, veteran Reggie deSoto says a prayer for the fallen. He places a laminated copy of a poem he wrote 50 years ago, in 1966. He ad libs the poem while onlookers listen.
deSoto: "We have no racists on this wall. We have no hate on this wall. We are all the same color Americans on this wall."
DeSoto, who lives in Dexter, says he served for three years and was deployed to Vietnam for 30 days. He calls himself lucky.
deSoto: "I was with the 1st Aviation Brigade. I was an air crash rescue man. I carried a fire extinguisher instead of a rifle."
The former Forest Service firefighter engages with other vets passing by, talking about race and unity.
"We didn't die for preventing communism or any of the other malarkey, right, that was the reality of it. And yeah, we were lied to like crazy, just like the kids in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of these guys, they died for each other. We died for each other. We fought for each other."
The names etched on the half-size replica elicit strong emotions from those who visit. Milling among the crowd are clergy, wearing labeled black shirts indicating they are here to listen or pray. Volunteers help people locate the name of a loved one and make a rubbing on paper.
"My name is Claudia Jojola. I live in Florence."
Jojola drove from the coast to Eugene to pay tribute to her younger brother.
Jojola: "My brother's name is on there. He was 21-years-old in 1972. He was my younger brother. He was just under me. I was 23 and he was 21 when he passed. He was only there a few months. Carrying somebody...he was carrying somebody."
Jojola used to live in Virginia and has been to the actual Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. five times. Her family members also see the moving wall when it comes through their town.
"My son saw it in Colorado 2 weeks ago or 3 weeks ago, and he says mom you have to go see it. And when I saw it on TV here, I had to come and see it."
The moving wall is 253-feet long. It has 58,306 names inscribed, including 1,300 unaccounted-for POW's and MIA's.
The moving wall will be on display at Eugene's Skinner Butte Park every day until this Sunday when a closing ceremony will be held at 2:00 p.m.