MANKATO — Some people come to peruse the entire wall, but most home in on specific names of lost friends and loved ones.
A traveling Vietnam veterans memorial wall was attracting a steady flow of visitors Thursday after it was erected at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site along Stoltzman Road.
Vietnam veteran Dobie Painter of Mankato said the attraction helps elevate a group of U.S. military veterans to their deserved niche.
“I think the American public still doesn’t accept Vietnam veterans as much as they do other veterans.”
Thirty-five former and current military people spent 21/2 hours putting the wall’s black panels in place Thursday morning.
The 360-foot-long mobile tribute is 80 percent the size of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and lists the names of 58,479 Americans whose lives were claimed in that war.
The names are arranged according to the dates people died. At the site’s entrance an alphabetical listing of those killed denotes which panels carry the names of those sought.
Dawn Ulrich of Mankato was there to find the name of a bomber pilot uncle killed by friendly fire in 1966.
“I was in fifth grade at the time and, boy, it changed my life,” she said.
She said her uncle was the first from the small town of Baldwin, N.D., to be killed in the war, and the communal grief was profound.
Ulrich said she grew up very quickly after that, and each night she watched the TV news with her parents to get caught up on the war’s latest death tolls.
The traveling wall site will be open 24/7 through Sunday afternoon. Candlelight ceremonies will be held at 6 p.m. today and Saturday. Mankato Vietnam veteran Tom McLaughlin is the event’s grand marshal.
The $6,000 cost to bring the wall to Mankato was paid with funds raised by the annual Mankato ChiliFest.
The wall last appeared in Mankato in 2006.