EDITORIAL: Traveling Wall a powerful and moving experience
After spending most of the weekend out at the V.F.W. taking part in the Traveling Wall activities, it's tough to process the meaning and enormity of the 58,253 names etched in black. With the emotionally powerfull wall in the background, featured speakers gave us a glimpse of what it means to be a Vietnam veteran. We should all leave The Wall inspired, impressed, proud, and most of all humbled.
Inspired to do good in this world. Impressed with the effort of our local V.F.W. members, and community, in bringing The Wall to New York Mills, and ultimately to honor our Vietnam veterans. All veterans, for that matter. Proud to be an American. And humbled by the sacrifice soldiers and their families make in an effort to protect and serve this country.
The Vietnam War is a painful and controversial chapter in American history. It was a war that was not fully supported by the American people. War is Hell, and The Wall is evidence bad things happen. Our government and military leaders made mistakes that cost lives. Soldiers were treated poorly when they returned home. Many still struggle today with mental and physical issues associated with being Vietnam veterans. And yet, local veterans like Gary "Doc" Robinson, Alan "Lindy" Linda, Dr. William Rose, and Gerald "Hacker" Anderson stood proud this weekend while speaking on behalf of all veterans.
Most of us don't know what it's like to serve in the military, and we certainly shouldn't pretend to have an inkling of understanding what soldiers go through in combat. We should all leave this past weekend honored that these men shared with us a piece of their personal struggle they've battled with the last 30-plus years. Putting their words together with the 58,253 names carved on The Wall - men and women who did not come home - leaves a lasting impression.
Whether we know names on The Wall or not, listening to these veterans and just a small sampling of their stories, left many who attended the four days of programs with a better understanding of what serving in Vietnam was all about.
Praise definitely goes out to the many, many people who made this project happen. Bringing the Traveling Wall here was a good thing for the community. And from various conversations with veterans throughout the weekend, The Wall here was important for them as well; Guys like Dennis Carlson of Menahga, a Vietnam veteran who was wounded in action. He stood at The Wall and pointed out 10 names of men he served with in his unit killed in action. When Carlson heard Post 3289 was trying to bring The Traveling Wall to Mills he went out on his own and raised about $1,000 in his community and contributed to the cause.
Bruce Wangsness, a New York Mills police officer and Vietnam veteran said he's never been to The Wall in Washington, D.C., and to see the Traveling Wall up close in the community he works was very emotional for him. He chose to keep his feelings to himself, simply saying The Wall was "impressive." We respect that, and certainly respect and honor his service.
Local Vietnam veteran Ardner Anderson came up with the idea after seeing the Traveling Wall in Mahnomen. Starting with Anderson's initial effort and chairing The Traveling Wall committee, there were many people involved - far too many to name here. Credit for much of the work goes to Post 3289 Auxiliary president Rhonda Myers-Schornack, who many over the weekend said was one of the most instrumental in organizing the daily events. Arles Kumpula, a long-time champion for honoring our veterans and not letting us forget P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s. Hacker Anderson and the way he stands proud while barking out orders to the Post 3289 Color Guard, a color guard that does things right and is well respected in the area. Their efforts are certainly noteworthy and deserve praise.
Area schools, including bus loads of students from New York Mills, paid The Wall a visit. It's important for the younger generation - and every generation - to experience this educational and emotional opportunity. Even if the students don't fully grasp the deep meaning behind The Wall, we hope as they grow, so to will with them how important honoring our veterans really is, and what it means to be an American.
The hard work and dedication by the New York Mills V.F.W. and community which supported this project deserves our thanks for a job very, very well done.
(This editorial was written by Herald editor Kevin
Cederstrom and does not necessarily represent the view of all Herald staff.)