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Traveling replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall comes to Provo

By Shelby Slade daily Herald - | Sep 15, 2016
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Linda Ellertson (right) and Derri Christiansen touch the names of friends that they knew who had passed away in the Vietnam War on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Provo. The Moving Wall is a traveling exhibit that showcases 58,000 names of those who died in the Vietnam War; it is in Provo for five days and is open to the public. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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People look at the names had passed away in the Vietnam War on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Provo. The Moving Wall is a traveling exhibit that showcases 58,000 names of those who died in the Vietnam War; it is in Provo for the five days and is open to the public. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Military servicemen present the colors as well as attend an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Provo. The Moving Wall is a traveling exhibit of those who have died in the Vietnam War, and 58,000 names are engraved in the portable monument. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Military servicemen present the colors as well as attend an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Provo. The Moving Wall is a traveling exhibit of those who have died in the Vietnam War, and 58,000 names are engraved in the portable monument. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Provo Mayor John Curtis looks on during an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Provo. The Moving Wall landed on Provo on Thursday and will be at the Elks Lodge for five days. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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David Robinson (left) of the United States Marine Corps stands to salute the flag during an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Provo. The Moving Wall is a traveling exhibit of those who have died in the Vietnam War, and 58,000 names are engraved in the portable monument. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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American Legion Post 72 member and Vietnam veteran Ken Bona looks at a friend's name during an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Provo. The Moving Wall is a traveling exhibit of those who have died in the Vietnam War, and 58,000 names are engraved in the portable monument. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Veterans, civilians and active servicemen attend an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Provo. With 58,000 names engraved on the Moving Wall, the traveling exhibit was built to honor those who died in Vietnam, and is a 1/4th scale of the memorial in Washington D.C. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Veterans, civilians and active servicemen attend an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Provo. With 58,000 names engraved on the Moving Wall, the traveling exhibit was built to honor those who died in Vietnam, and is a 1/4th scale of the memorial in Washington D.C. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Veterans, civilians and active servicemen attend an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Provo. With 58,000 names engraved on the Moving Wall, the traveling exhibit was built to honor those who died in Vietnam, and is a 1/4th scale of the memorial in Washington D.C. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Veterans, civilians and active servicemen attend an event to present the Moving Wall on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Provo. With 58,000 names engraved on the Moving Wall, the traveling exhibit was built to honor those who died in Vietnam, and is a 1/4th scale of the memorial in Washington D.C. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Linda Ellertson (left) and Derri Christiansen touch the names of friends that they knew who had passed away in the Vietnam War on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 in Provo. The Moving Wall is a traveling exhibit that showcases 58,000 names of those who died in the Vietnam War; it is in Provo for the next 6 days and is open to the public. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

Washington, D.C. may be too far for many people to make the pilgrimage to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, but Provo is looking to capture the same spirit and respect that monument commands with a replica of the wall.

The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the original monument, will be on display 24 hours a day through Monday afternoon at the Provo Elks Lodge to let the community remember those killed during the Vietnam War.

“We just wanted the opportunity to bring it here so people could see it and be able to honor the individuals that are on wall,” said Utah Elks Association Veterans Chairman Frank Robinette.

Robinette, who served in Vietnam during 1968 and 1969, said the Utah State Elks made getting the Moving Wall to stop in Utah County a priority.

“The Vietnam War was a very unpopular war,” he said. “It just seems like now that after 9/11 there’s been an interest in honoring the men and women who gave their lives for this country.”

To begin the five-day display of the Moving Wall, local public officials, veterans and community members gathered to talk about and remember those that had died serving in the military.

Kenneth Bona was one of the Vietnam veterans that came to pay his respects. Bona served in the Marines and was one of the first people in and last people out of Vietnam.

“I’ve got a lot of friends on this wall,” he said. “I wouldn’t even try to look for them, but I’m here to honor them anyway.”

Bona, who lives in Orem, joined the Marines when he was 16. Like several of the other veterans in attendance, he was quick to mention he wasn’t ashamed of his service.

“I’m proud to have served my country,” he said.

The pride these veterans felt was evident as many of the veterans showed up in uniforms, hats that said they had served or with the POW/MIA logo on their clothes. As the color guard presented the colors, their hands went to their foreheads in a crisp salute — a muscle memory from their time serving.

Utah County Commissioner Larry Ellertson, who spoke at the opening of the display, reminded those present of the difficult circumstances under which many of the Vietnam War veterans served.

“The time they came home we weren’t very good at showing our respect and our thanks as citizens,” Ellertson said. “We owe it to all of you who served that it truly is a debt of gratitude we have.”

The traveling wall has been crisscrossing the country for many years to give everyone an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives in Vietnam without having to travel all the way to Washington.

Gary Harter, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, said the wall was an awesome sight for him. The wall, like the one it replicates, perfectly reflected the flags and faces of those carefully reading the names and pondering the loss of many men and women.

“It’s a realization for those who really did make the ultimate sacrifice at a difficult time in our nation’s history,” Harter said.

Those who are interested in attending can visit the replica any time of day they want before it leaves at 2 p.m. on Monday. There will be computers available for people to look up where the name of specific people are.

Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, said he wanted to reassure those veterans in attendance that people hadn’t forgotten them and that opportunities like the one the Utah Elks provided will keep them in our memories.

“As you look at all these names, they’re not statistics,” Burton said. “They are real people. They had real hopes, they had real dreams and they had plans for the future. All those ended abruptly in a combat situation.”

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