ALBANY—In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the City of Albany and the Tri-County Council Vietnam Era Veterans are currently hosting the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a 3/5 scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The wall, located on the east side of Washington Park near the intersection of Willett Street and Hudson Avenue, is open to viewing 24 hours a day until Monday, Sept. 19. Volunteers have signed up to read the names of the fallen veterans listed on the wall for 91 continuous hours, from 11 a.m. on Thursday morning until 6 a.m. on Monday and visitors stand at attention every evening at 7 p.m. while a bugle plays Taps. The wall is six feet tall at the center and spans almost 300 feet; flags line the pathway at both entrances and commemorative flags hang in the center. Uniformed veterans are on hand to chat with visitors and the general tone is one of respect and reflection.
A single place setting at an empty table was meant to honor POWs who were never confirmed dead and, thus, never added to the thousands of names that currently grace the wall, but the wind forced organizers to take it down on Saturday afternoon. 58,272 names appear on the wall in Washington Park, the documented number of military personnel who were wounded in Vietnam between 1957 and 1975 and ultimately died of their wounds—as of the year 2011. That number has since grown to 58,307, as of Memorial Day 2015, from 57,939 at the D.C. memorial’s dedication in 1982.
“This is our way of reminding the Capital Region Community that these men and women will never be forgotten,” said Gene Loparco, a local veteran who founded the organization Please Remember Me, which is dedicated to honoring American servicemen and women who have died in the line of duty. Loparco and his wife attended the opening ceremony for the traveling wall and signed up to read names from midnight to 2 a.m. “We had friends that we served with during our tours in Vietnam and other friends and relatives who made the supreme sacrifice for our freedom. God Bless them all.”
Loparco plans to return to the memorial on Sunday, after attending church, and will also be present for the closing ceremony on Monday, Sept. 19 at 9 a.m..
Some sobering facts about those who lost their lives in Vietnam:
- The first known casualty was a man named Richard B. Fitzgibbon of Mass., who was killed in 1956; his son, Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, was killed in September of 1965. The men are listed together on the wall.
- There are three sets of fathers and sons on the wall and 31 sets of brothers.
- 39,996 of the names on the wall were 22 years old or younger; 8,283 were 19; 12 were 17; five were 16; and one, PFC Dan Bullock, was just 15 years old. The largest age group to die in Vietnam were 18-year-olds—33,103 lost their lives in Vietnam.
- Of the 244 soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, 153 of them are on the wall.
“There are no noble wars,” reads a sign placed in front of the wall in Washington Park, “just noble warriors.”