Traveling Vietnam memorial brings out emotions

Simkins Park was the venue for the traveling replica Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

The Moving Wall, the half-size replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C., arrived on Thursday, followed by a special ceremony.

The wall displays the names of more than 58,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War. The event coincided with the annual Pahrump Fall Festival.

Chris Erwin, the chief executive officer of the Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce, said he and the board of directors agreed to bring the wall to town for the second time. The first visit was in 2002.

“We found that for many veterans, it’s a very emotional time when they go visit the wall,” he said. “I really felt that by having it at Simkins Park it could be a bit more of a memorial park type of environment. We didn’t want people at the wall paying their respects while at the same time there’s a carnival atmosphere going on.”

Resident Bruce Cox was a presenter representing the U.S Army during the ceremony, which featured guest speakers.

Cox entered the military in 1980 and served through Operation Desert Storm in Iraq as a senior medic for a field artillery unit with the 24th Infantry Division.

He called the memorial “transforming.”

“The moving Vietnam Wall was an unbelievable experience,” he said. “The way it was presented and the way Simkins Park was all set up, was simply amazing. The Vietnam veterans and all veterans that I spoke to thought it was the most moving thing they have ever seen without actually going to Washington D.C.”

Resident Phil Huff said his wife’s brother, Charles F. Wright served in Vietnam but never returned.

Huff located his brother-in-law’s name under the Georgia section of the wall.

“He went on a volunteer mission after his day of duty was finished,” Huff said. “He tried to rescue some other servicemen on a mission in a helicopter. There were three helicopters, and two of them were shot down and he never returned. He was 28-years-old when he was shot down. It was his first time in Vietnam.”

Following the ceremony, visitors, including Huff, made rubbings with charcoal pencils of the names etched into the wall.

“There’s a cross next to the names identifying those who are still missing,” he said. “A diamond next to the name denotes that they were killed in action.”

Huff said he died a hero.

“It’s unfortunate because he was doing a volunteer mission when his helicopter was shot down,” he said. “They were making an emergency run to rescue some troops. He volunteered but didn’t come back. I think the wall was beautifully presented at the park with all of the trees and the grass. It’s just magnificent.”

Erwin meanwhile, said he’s glad he was able to bring the wall back to Pahrump for the first time since 2002.

The $10,000 cost was covered by donations through a GoFundMe campaign.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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