During a fishing trip a couple years ago to Florida's southwest gulf coast, I was told about a unique half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall being built in Punta Gorda. I visited and found it remarkably authentic, even amid the palm trees.
I'll never forget my first visit to the actual wall. It was around 1990, during the evening in early autumn. The memorial, built just a short distance from the Lincoln Memorial, seems hidden from street view. But, as I rounded a corner and dropped down into the memorial, I saw the ground-mounted floodlights casting their glow upward across the more than 50,000 names etched in the black stone. It was a powerful, emotional experience.
I had some wonderful teachers in junior high school and high school who were Vietnam veterans. I later had the pleasure and honor of serving with many Vietnam veterans during my own early days of military service. Some of the stories they shared remain among the most vivid in my memories. Many of them have now passed away; most of the others are retired. I never did meet any of those whose names are memorialized on that wall, but I felt a sense of brotherhood with them and mourned their deaths.
I'm glad today's veterans are well-received by the society they've sworn to defend. It wasn't that way when our Vietnam veterans were returning home. Here's a link to my article that appeared in militarytimes.com just after the Punta Gorda memorial wall was dedicated. Click on the photo to be taken to the article.