CORINTH – A moving Field Cross ceremony Friday by Blytheville, Ark., veteran Robert Couch set the tone for a solemn opening of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall.
Couch approached the traditional helmet, rifle and boots that form a soldier’s cross, where he knelt and draped a dogtag to symbolize a fallen soldier, then saluted. A Missing Man boot formation honored Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.
“There were 718 still missing in action in 2008,” Couch said, “12 of those from Alcorn County.”
Several hundred people gathered Friday morning on the grounds of North Corinth Baptist Church to pay tribute to loved ones and friends at the Wall.
“I wanted to show my respect for those fallen soldiers,” said Vietnam veteran Larry Fratus of Farmington. “I’ve had the bracelet from an MIA soldier – Staff Sgt. Gary Alan Harned – for about 30 years, and went to the original wall in Washington, too.”
Gold Star Mother Wavane Walker, 80, attended Friday’s ceremony, as she has done for every local event to honor Vietnam casualties. She lost her son, Troy Lee Walker, on Sept. 3, 1969.
“If you’d ever lost a child you’d understand why I come,” said Walker, of Corinth. “He was my child, and we need to remember.”
Retired Brig. Gen. Bill Huff, part of the group who spearheaded the drive to bring the Wall to Corinth, called the event the realization of a dream.
In his remarks, Mississippi Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander B.J. Lott stressed the importance of honoring the sacrifices of the nation’s warriors by taking care of their health and welfare needs.
“I have friends, comrades, people I recruited whose names are on this wall,” Lott said.
However, many who sacrificed were able to come home, but carry their battle scars in a different way.
Unlike the stresses everyone experiences as part of daily life, he said the stress a soldier endures is constant, with no time to rebound before the next stressful event hits.
Lott said it’s not surprising, therefore, that so many who come back from war experience post-traumatic stress disorder – also called combat fatigue.
“They’ve given their health and lives for the benefit of this nation,” Lott said.
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall
The Wall will be on display at North Corinth Baptist Church, Mississippi Highway 2 exit from U.S. 45, through noon Monday. It may be viewed 24 hours a day, and directories will help visitors find names of people they want to locate and materials will be available to amke rubbings of those names.
Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal