Traveling Vietnam Wall attracts visitors seeking to honor military sacrifices

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – While some people are celebrating Memorial Day weekend with barbecues, others are taking time to reflect on the purpose of the holiday: to honor the nation’s fallen service members. .

This is the perfect time for the Traveling Wall of Vietnam Veterans to come to Kansas City. It arrived May 18 and will be on display until the end of Memorial Day.

Vietnam veteran Gerald Caldwell brought his granddaughter. A volunteer helped the man from Lee’s Summit find the name of his high school quarterback, Sidney Bryant.

“I was a navy construction battalion and he was army,” Caldwell told him.

On the virtual wall site, he was able to find a photo of his friend. Bryant was 20 when he died.

“It’s really emotional, because I was a bit close to him. I was close to him, I spoke to him every day and everything, and to have him fair, I would say he disappears like that” , explained Caldwell.

The Traveling Vietnam Wall is an 80% replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. It is 400 feet long and has 140 panels with the names of servicemen killed in the Vietnam War.

“It really brings him home. You hear numbers or read numbers in a book. It’s one thing, but when you see the names of people who actually lived and had a family, who had a story, who had a future, but they, you know, it was all about them,” said visitor Mike Railsback.

This year, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute added separate panels honoring American sacrifices across the generations.

There are 29 casualty lists for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a group of panels with the names of those killed on 9/11 and single panels for a number of other deaths from 1914 to 212, including those from the bombing of the USS Cole and the attack on Benghazi .

Shane Virgil Stark was in Kansas City from New Mexico to visit family. He is a non-war veteran, but he knows that not all war casualties occur on the battlefield.

“I lost two friends here last year. There were some in Afghanistan where they got sick with cancer and other things because of something that happened there,” he noted.

At this point, a display of American flags outside the National WWI Museum and Memorial represents the 140 veterans who commit suicide each week. The display is called Flags of the Forgotten Soldiers. It is not part of the wall and has been erected by Liberty Memorial each Memorial Day weekend for the past few years.

Caldwell received help from the Veterans Administration nearly 20 years ago for PTSD and continues to receive treatment.

“It makes my depression go away and my self-esteem improves,” he said.

He now works with the VFW and disabled American veterans. He notes that exhibits like the Traveling Tribute also help with self-esteem, especially for Vietnam veterans who felt shamed and ostracized when they returned home.

“It’s a really nice wake up call for us because when we came back from Vietnam, we didn’t tell anyone,” Caldwell said.

“I’m so glad we still recognize that,” Stark said. “It’s awesome.”

The tribute arrived in Kansas City on May 18. It’s free to visit and will remain open through Memorial Day, with the exception of 7-11 tomorrow night, when it’s closed for the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra’s celebration at the station.

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