Closing ceremonies bring back memories

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

Although the crowd at Sunday’s Moving Wall closing ceremony was small in comparison to crowds earlier this week, the emotional impact of the wall remained the same.

“This is the first time that I’ve seen the Moving Wall, but I have been to the real one in Washington twice,” said Vietnam veteran Tom Dirkse. “I guess it’s just special because I was there. It holds a lot of dear memories, and some bad memories. It’s pretty impressive when you see all of the names. The long list puts it in perspective.”

During the short, but moving ceremony, Jim Truax thanked the individuals and organizations who worked to ensure that the event was a success, and Reverend Polk Van Zandt said a prayer and recognized residents of Dallas County and Marion who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.

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“Our three goals were to recognize the citizens in Selma and Dallas County who died in the war, to do something to recognize the men and women from the area who served, and to show that Selma is a caring, united community,” said Truax. “I think we did that.”

“This is just an awesome thing. I get melancholy every time I come out here,” said Cynthia Cane. “When they brought it out, I was one of the ones to help put it together. As I reached up to touch the first panel, I started streaming tears.”

Cane’s first husband served in the Vietnam War and returned home safely. He did, however, have several first cousins who lost their lives during this war.

“It was an humbling experience to listen to everyone’s story,” said Kathi Needham. “I can’t imagine people not leaving here with warm memories. There were a lot of prayers said before this wall. It brought people together who found out that they had family members who died together.”

According to Needham, although over 2,000 people registered while visiting the wall during the week it was displayed, there were many more who did not.

“We had quite a few who did not register,” said Needham. “We didn’t bug people, we let them seek their own level of comfort.”

After Marion Military Institute cadets played Taps, the American flag was lowered, and retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Scott Patterson led a three – plane Missing Man fly-over, visitors quietly viewed the wall for the last time.

“This was very great what they did here,” said Walt “Gator” Bertl, who served in the Korean War.

Joined by his granddaughter, Bertl made the three hour drive from Lake Martin on his motorcycle to see the name of a friend who is listed on the wall. Unfolding the paper that he used to make a rubbing of his friend’s name, Bertl simply said, “I found what I was looking for.”