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SCV says goodbye to fallen, Vietnam Wall

Posted: September 30, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 30, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The All Veterans Honor Squad performs a 21-gun salute during the closing ceremony of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall parking lot on Sunday.

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As they turned away from the wall Sunday, shaken and wet-eyed, some of the gray-haired serviceman who came to Santa Clarita and found the name of their friends engraved on the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, also found solace in those who survived.

“It’s tough,” said one Vietnam Veteran as he turned from the wall and bumped into someone in military garb. The only thing he could add was “a lot of friends.”

“It tears us up on the inside,” said Vietnam Veteran Pete Duncan. “We made brothers while we were over there.”

The two “brothers” hugged.

They were among the thousands who, over the last four days, visited the 300-foot-long black monument containing the names of U.S. servicemen killed in battle. The wall is an 80-percent-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, hundreds filled the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall parking lot near Citrus Street and Magic Mountain Parkway parking lot to say goodbye to a moment in local history when the more than 58,000 men and women who gave their lives in the Vietnam War were formally recognized.

After a rendition of “America The Beautiful” sung by Elliot Witherspoon and an invocation delivered by Minister Melissa McKennon of the Santa Clarita Methodist Church, those responsible for helping bring the wall to Santa Clarita — including, Chuck Morris, who initiated the project — said goodbye to the wall and the experience.

After four days, scores of wall sections were decorated with wreaths, roses, yellowing black-and-white photographs of servicemen, unopened letters addressed to them and candles.

“On these panels are listed the names of our heroes that we honor and miss to this day,” said Gary Mitchell, district commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“There are three sets of fathers and sons,” he said. “There are more than 8,000 19-year-olds, more than 33,000 18-year-olds and there are 31 sets of brothers.”

Before he left the podium, Mitchell read a poem called “I cry,” which made him cry as predicted.

Vietnam veteran Bill Reynolds read an essay on the Vietnam War written by his granddaughter, one of three essays written by children and read in the closing ceremonies. He, too, found it difficult to read it without being moved to tears.

A 21-gun salute by the All Veterans Honor Squad and a final playing of Taps played by Bob Danis capped the close of Santa Clarita Valley’s visit by the memorial wall.

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