PARKERSBURG - They came to remember.
Whether it was to remember a friend or relative, to remember a time or place or just to come and remember the sacrifices made by those who serve in uniform, people came from around the area Thursday to see the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall on display at City Park.
Dozens of volunteers withstood rain and thunderstorms Thursday morning to dedicate a few hours of their time to the memory of fallen veterans.
High school football players from around Wood County helped erect the wall at City Park in Parkersbu
More than three dozen volunteers were at City Park Thursday morning to assist in erecting the Wall. Work was supposed to start at 7 a.m., but thundershowers delayed things.
Working under the direction of wall manager Greg Welsh, volunteers started setup after 7:30 a.m. and pulled the first section of the wall, carried by two Parkersburg Catholic High School football players, out of the truck after 8 a.m.
More than a dozen high school football players from Parkersburg Catholic, Williamstown, Parkersburg and Parkersburg South showed up to help, along with volunteers from the 1092nd Engineer Battalion West of Virginia National Guard.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Terry Wittekind, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1971-72, stands in front of one of the monuments Thursday as he gazes at the wall.
More than a dozen volunteers from Home Depot stores in Bridgeport and Parkersburg also were on hand to aid in the setup. They planted flowers and plants around the veterans memorial section of the park.
Volunteers off-loaded about a half dozen benches.
The wall officially opened to the public at 4 p.m. Thursday and dozens of people came to be among the first to see it.
Some were looking for the names of loved ones and friends, some made etchings of the names of those they remembered and some just wanted the chance to honor the fallen.
"It is simple, they died for our country," said Jack Seabolt of Parkersburg on why he came out to see the wall Thursday evening.
He had friends listed on the memorial.
"I came to show my respect to the guys who died for us," Seabolt said. "We need to show our respect."
One Vietnam veteran, a Marine who did not want to be identified, said he tries to make it to one of the Vietnam War memorials on a regular basis.
"I come to this wall when I can," he said. "This makes my fourth time to the Traveling Wall and three times to the (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) in Washington, D.C.
"I come to honor the guys every chance I can."
The veteran, who spent more than six months in Vietnam before his enlistment was up, knows some of those listed on the wall. He said the normal deployment in Vietnam for Marines was 13 months.
"I would have had seven more months to be there," he said. "We pointed out seven months on the wall and there were a lot of them that died in that time."
He said the experience of coming to the walls is solemn every time.
"Any time anyone can honor them, they should even if they just come and walk through," he said. "The living ones were not honored when they came back and the ones who died were pretty much forgotten. This here is remembrance."
Terry Wittekind of Marietta, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam in 1971-1972, said he was surprised by the large number who turned out for the first evening of the wall being up.
He had a chance to talk with a lot of people Thursday, those who served and those who knew someone who served.
"Personally, I think it is a healing process," Wittekind said. "I see other veterans here and I get to talk to them.
"It is good, because they know. It helps you deal with your problems and helps them deal with their problems."
Many Vietnam veterans will wait until the middle of the night to come to honor those they served with privately, out of view from the public, he said.
"Each vet has their own stories; some want to tell them and some of them don't," he said. "I think it is getting more easier to talk about it."
The official opening ceremonies will be 2 p.m. today.
"I think (today) is going to be a real busy day here," Wittekind said. "I think they are going to have a big turnout."
Staff writer Jody Murphy contributed to this story.