Jack Savage of Biddeford was among those who made it a point to stop by the Wall that Heals, a 375-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial set up in south Sanford last week. Savage, who served in the US Navy, lost five comrades in the war, including those who were the three names he traced on the paper he is holding, and two others, who died later in the war. Courtesy photo

Jack Savage of Biddeford, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War stopped by The Wall that Heals on display in south Sanford last week. Savage, like others who made their way to the 375-foot-long replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, felt it was important to come. Like others, he traced the names of his friends — in his case, five friends in his unit who perished in the war. Three of them — unit captain and team leader Walter H. Moon, Gerald M. Biber and John M. Bischoff, were killed in Laos in 1961 — he found their names on the first panel. Two others, Chester Townsend and Nelson “Yogie” Moore were killed later in Vietnam.

Visitors — some like Savage, who served — and some who lost family members or friends, or those who simply wanted to pay their respects, stopped by to see and touch The Wall that Heals. Some left memorials like a flag or a clutch of flowers.

John Flagler, representing Disabled American Veterans, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970. He too saw combat, 21 engagements with the enemy, and lost friends.

During the opening ceremony, Flagler spoke of a time when many felt guilty for avoiding military service in Vietnam and others who did serve felt guilt for surviving when their comrades did not. He spoke of The Wall — The Vietnam Veterans Memorial — and pointed out that while the federal government provided the land, the memorial was largely built by the efforts of citizens. He also talked about the five stages of grief — the last of which is acceptance.

“I am begging you to complete the process of grief and become whole again,” Flagler said.

The traveling exhibit honors the more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Vietnam War, and it bears the names of the 58,281 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. Forty-one names are those of residents of York County.

A woman leaving the display on Thursday afternoon, turned to her friend and said “I’m glad we came.”

In Sanford Sept. 7-10, The Wall that Heals was made possible by Sanford Elks #1470, area military associations and social clubs, local businesses and a host of volunteers.

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