A flag from each of the five branches of the U.S. armed forces fly above The Moving Wall, which is currently on display at the Washington Fairgrounds through Monday, Sept. 23, at 2 p.m.
An American flag and a POW/MIA (Prisoners of War/Missing in Action) flag fly nearby, with a single dinner place setting for the missing soldier off to the side.
Standing in front of the wall Thursday, with his hand firmly placed on Panel 51 of the scaled replica of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., was Mike Jahns.
On the back of his shirt, along with an image of Vietnam is the phrase “All Gave Some, Some Gave All.”
For Jahns, that sentiment rings true — as Panel 51 is where the names of 25 of his platoon members’ names are inscribed.
“To me, it’s a chance to visit old friends,” Jahns said about The Moving Wall. “I look at it as a chance to spend a little more time with them, to be with them and to honor them, and to remember them. Always remember.”
Jahns recalled the day in Vietnam in which the enemy took the lives of his friends.
“It wasn’t too long after we dropped them off (for their mission) that they went to a condition red,” he said. “We didn’t know, we dropped the platoon in the middle of a full division of Vietnamese.”
Jahns said that, despite orders, he and two choppers went back and rescued 19 men.
“Otherwise, they’d be here too,” he said.
Jahns, who has been to the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., traveled about 40 miles from Arnold to visit the wall in Washington.
In addition to seeing the memorial, he has seen The Moving Wall about 15 times.
“Any chance I get to be with them, I’m there,” he said. “If it’s remotely close I’ll go.”
Jahns said the Washington display was “perfect” and one of the best he’s seen.
He said he hopes it serves as a tool so people can “understand what the cost of freedom really is.”
Many visitors to the wall shared his view that remembering and honoring those who served is important.
Like Jahns, Jane Struckhoff visited the wall to view the name of a loved one.
She and her husband, Ron Struckhoff, were looking for the name of her brother, Walter “Ruben” Shortt, a Marine from Augusta.
“Even 46 years after my brother was killed in Vietnam, the pain never goes away. You think you’ll get past it, but you never do,” she said.
And though temperatures neared 90 degrees, Struckhoff said she had goosebumps looking at the wall. The sheer number of names, more than 58,000, made her emotional.
“Even scaled down, it’s really huge,” Ron Struckhoff said. “Too many people died.”
The Strruckhoffs, who have not been to the memorial in Washington, D.C., praised and thanked the Friends of Vietnam Veterans for organizing the event.
Some visitors to the wall didn’t know anyone killed in the war, but wanted to take a look at the wall.
“I hope the younger generation realizes what it means,” said Roger Miesner, Marthasville.
Donna Simpson, Union, said that while everyone she knew who went to war made it home, “this just blows you away.
“It just makes you think about everything that’s going on today,” she said. “Hopefully we won’t relive it.”
Afghanistan veteran Chris Rollings, Union, said he appreciated not having to go to Washington, D.C., to see the wall.
His father served in Vietnam.
“It’s pretty impressive,” he said.
The Moving Wall
Inscribed on the wall are the names of more than 58,000 veterans who gave their lives or remain missing. More than 20 Franklin County service members were killed in the war, including one from Washington.
The display is free and open 24 hours through the five-day event.
Military vehicles will be on display all five days, as well as “Through the Eyes,” a Vietnam-era exhibit designed to honor the men and women who lost their lives and served in the Vietnam War.
The exhibit presents images of military personnel as well as the items carried and used during a veteran’s time in Vietnam.