Lubbock remembering those who served in Vietnam at memorial traveling wall

The Traveling Tributes are panels of wars and conflicts which include the names of the brave Americans who lost their lives defending freedom.
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:41 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Since 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has been a simple, somber reminder of those who died in conflict.

There, comrades and civilians can search for names of their fallen brethren, and place their hands on the granite reflection. They can also trace their names on a small piece of paper, which is made available there at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

This week in Lubbock, people do not have to travel so far to look for the names. The American Veterans Traveling Tribute has placed a replica of the wall, 80 percent scale, at the north end of Texas Tech’s Memorial Circle, where people can stop and see the names. This project has also been sponsored by the South Plains Honor Flight, which is an all-expense-paid trip for South Plains veterans to visit memorials and museums at our nation’s capitol.

The wall will remain in Lubbock through Sunday evening.

Veterans and volunteers assembled on Wednesday morning to help with the setup.

“Everybody wrote the same check, these guys cashed theirs,” said Rick Hadley, who served stateside during the Vietnam War. “We fought this war to keep communism where it was at, at that time, to keep it from coming over here. If we stop it there, we won’t have to stop it here.”

Vietnam veteran Lee Sandlin, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1971-74, was also there to help with the setup.

“Well, if you look at all the names, that’s all the people, and they’re here,” he said, while holding off tears.

U.S. Army veteran Jose Salinas, who served from 1989-99, was injured in Bosnia during the 1990s. His family fought in Vietnam, and he was on Tech’s campus Wednesday in their honor. He says the struggles of the Vietnam Conflict laid the foundation for how the United States would conduct wars and battles years later.

“These men and women here and all that served during that time, didn’t get actually anything,” he said. “A lot of the things that they did, then shaped the way we do warfare now... with less body count.”

At Wednesday afternoon’s ceremony, Ron Milam, Associate Professor and Executive Director of the Institute for Peace and Conflict (IPAC), says the public’s perception of the Wall in Washington played a vital role in healing for the veterans.

“For those of us old enough to remember, the Vietnam War was not a popular war; it made the very idea of a memorial almost impossible.”

The original memorial, which sits at the northwest corner of the National Mall, was approved by Democratic president Jimmy Carter, and years later by Republican president Ronald Reagan. The only goal was for all of the names to be listed.

“In 1980, there was not yet any healing,” Milam says. “I saw the wall as the only memorial in Washington, D.C. that could not be seen from your car as you drive by and as hiding rather than proudly displaying our service. I was reluctant to see the wall, but I did so, and I was blown away, and as I looked at all of the other people staring at those names, some crying, I thought how wrong I had been not to appreciate the beauty of this place that honors those who had fallen in the most personal way, with their names etched in granite, along with all of the others who did what their country asked them to do.”

Wednesday afternoon, wreaths were placed by representatives who served in Vietnam, Lubbock Police Department, Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, DPS, and Texas Tech University. Fallen soldiers from other wars are also recognized on the west end of Memorial Circle.

The AVTT has a donation box there on site where people can donate. The 2023 South Plains Honor Flight is also accepting donations, which can be made on their Web site www.texassouthplainshonorflight.org.