SCARBOROUGH – A traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., attracted hundreds of people to the Cabela’s parking lot in Scarborough last weekend to honor the 58,286 men and women who died in the conflict.

Many visitors to the 360-foot-by-8-foot wall, including veterans and passersby, not only got a chance to view the monument, but also to find the engraved names of friends, family members or neighbors they once knew.

Lorna Fanjoy, from Auburn, who took a trip to Scarborough with her husband to shop at Cabela’s, also viewed the wall and ended up discovering an old classmate’s name.

“Paul E. Sudsbury was a classmate, and I went with his brother to the prom,” Fanjoy said. “I’ve known the whole family.”

To document the names, event organizers provided white pieces of paper and pencils for visitors to do rubbings. Those who couldn’t find a name immediately on the wall were able to locate it by visiting a “name locator” tent where organizers searched for deceased military members by name and dates they served in a database.

“As soon as we got it set up, people started coming in,” said Lisa Simmons, an organizer of the event and member of the Patriot Riders of America Maine Chapter 1.

Fanjoy said she visited the same wall when it was on display in South Portland a few years ago. Of the tribute, she said, “it’s great for all of the vets, and it’s sad to see your friends there. It’s got to be hard on them.”

The wall, an 80-percent scale replica of the permanent structure in Washington, D.C., is a project of the Wounded Heroes Program of Maine. It was set up in the store’s parking lot for the first time in Scarborough from July 3-6.

A “Cost of Freedom” tribute, a 190-foot-long poster display that honors all veterans and those serving today, was also available this weekend. Everyone who attended the event at Cabela’s not only paid respect to those who died during the Vietnam War, but also to active duty military members, firefighters, police officers and anyone else who has made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the country. Every conflict that the United States has been involved in was represented in the tribute.

According to the American Veterans Traveling Tribute organization’s website, which sponsors the traveling wall, the tribute creates a forum for communities to raise awareness for its Vietnam veterans. Though it is not the focus, the event is a chance to raise funds for veterans and their causes in the local community.

Mike Burns of Buxton and his wife, Maureen, turned out Thursday to visit the wall. Burns, who served in Vietnam for three years, said he has yet to see the wall in Washington, D.C.

“I lost some guys,” said Burns. He said he planned on searching the wall for names of those with whom he served.

“It’s fantastic,” said Maureen of the tribute. “It’s impressive.”

“It will bring back a lot of emotions for so many people,” she added.

Cabela’s retail marketing manager Greg Sirpis said Cabela’s works to support veterans as much as possible, and what better way than to host the traveling wall and Cost of Freedom Tribute right in the store’s parking lot during the July 4 weekend.

According to Sirpis, Cabela’s has been partnering with the Wounded Heroes Program of Maine for several years and decided that this summer it would bring the traveling wall to Scarborough.

“We care about our veterans, and it’s one of our community involvement initiatives,” Sirpis said. “It’s something that we are passionate about.”

Along with the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Cabela’s has sponsored fishing tournaments for veterans and has participated in several different fundraising events for the Wounded Heroes Program of Maine, said Sirpis.

“Pretty much anything to do with veterans (we are) interested in helping out with,” he said.

Mike LaBonte, from Loudon, N.H., and his wife, Chris, found the name of an old neighbor, Walter Merzen, from Concord, N.H., on the wall in Scarborough. The couple visited the wall in Washington, D.C., in 1985.

“It’s a great thing they do,” said Mike LaBonte of the memorial wall in Scarborough. “If you can’t afford to go (to Washington, D.C.), and it comes to you in your neighborhood, that’s pretty special.”

Howard Baker, 75, from Portland, and his brother, John Baker, 72, from Westbrook, both U.S. Army veterans, visited the traveling wall together on Thursday. Although they did not recognize any familiar names on the wall, being able to visit the wall was still a meaningful experience for them.

Years ago, Vietnam veterans were rarely recognized for their service and certainly not to the degree they are today, the brothers said.

“This should have happened a long time ago out of respect for all the soldiers that we lost,” said John Baker, of the traveling tribute. He served in the Army for two years leading up to the Vietnam War and then in the Army National Guard for 20 years.

Scarborough’s Vietnam Memorial Wall, though a bit smaller than the original, still hit home for the Baker brothers on Thursday, as they mourned the loss of their fallen comrades.

“It’s very sentimental,” Howard Baker said.

U.S. Army veterans John Baker, left, from Westbrook, and his brother, Howard Baker, from Portland, search for names they recognize on the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica at Cabela’s in Scarborough last weekend, while, in the background, Auburn resident Lorna Fanjoy does a pencil rubbing of a name. A tribute honoring every soldier who died in the Vietnam War was on display in the Cabela’s parking lot in Scarborough during the July 4 weekend.Chris LaBonte, from New Hampshire, does a pencil rubbing of a name she recognized on the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Thursday.  Small flags line the entrance of Cabela’s in Scarborough to honor all military members, of the past, present and future, during the Fourth of July weekend. 

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.