Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall now open in Morehead City
MOREHEAD CITY | With a small piece of paper and pen, Marla Zipsir carefully rubbed an etching over one of the 58,307 names listed on the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall and captured memories of a loved one killed in action during the war and another who returned home but died later of health issues from his service.
Her brother, Marine Capt. Robert Kent, an F-4 pilot, was shot down while flying close to the Laos border during the Vietnam War. Her late husband, Larry Zipsir, also a Marine, died from cancer associated with Agent Orange.
“The two most important men in my life,” Zipsir said Friday as she ran her finger over her brother’s name listed on the traveling memorial stopped in Morehead City.
Zipsir has never been able to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. so the stop of the traveling memorial, a 3/5-scale replica of the original, in her hometown was an opportunity she couldn’t miss.
“When I heard it was going to be here I had to come,” Zipsir said. “It is so neat that they do this for people who can’t get up to the memorial in Washington, D.C. It really means a lot to me.”
An opening ceremony was held Friday morning for the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall’s stop in Carteret County for the Memorial Day weekend.
The Otway Burns Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has participated in the Department of Defense’s Commemorative Partner Program to honor and thank Vietnam War veterans and is hosting the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall’s stop in the area as the final of a series of events that it has held through the program.
The memorial is located on the campus of Glad Tidings Chuch at 4621 Country Club Rd. in Morehead City and will remain open to the public 24 hours a day through the closing ceremony at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The opening on Friday drew hundreds for the ceremony that included the placing of memorial wreaths at the site, a toast to the flag, patriotic music and a jump in by members of the All Veteran Parachute Team.
Keynote speaker Kevin Hynes of New Bern, a Vietnam veteran who is now adjutant of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Department of North Carolina, recalled his own anger after returning home from the war.
It took him years to make a trip to see the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, a trip that triggered another emotion after seeing the more than 58,000 names etched in the polished marble.
“Afterward I felt guilty that I had lived when so many had died and then I came to realize that it was God’s grace that I lived and I should be thankful and try to help others. I had some purpose to my life,” Hynes recalled.
Hynes recalled the gallantry of American troops in Vietnam, from the missions of the helicopter pilots and infantrymen to the medics going to the aid of the wounded while in the line of fire.
“It’s gallantry that was repeated time and time again,” Hynes said.
For each name on the wall, Hynes said, also remember the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who lost a loved one.
“Pray not only for the fallen but also for the families who lost a loved one,” Hynes said.
Friends Karen Hacker and Doris Ehlenfeldt made the trip from New Bern to see the wall.
Ehlenfeldt, who served two years in the Navy as a medic, was stateside during Vietnam but her brother was on the ground in Vietnam and her father served in World War II.
Fortunately, she said, they both returned home from war.
“When you see all the names (on the wall) it makes you so grateful if you don’t know anyone whose name is listed,” Ehlenfeldt said.
She has never seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington and wanted to come out to see the traveling memorial.
“You don’t realize the enormity of it until you walk through,” she said.
Hacker, who served 20 years in the Marine Corps, was able to see the memorial while stationed in the Washington area and has also seen the traveling memorial during a stop in Goldsboro.
But seeing the memorial is emotional no matter how many times she’s seen it.
“All you think of is that there are so many names,” Hacker said.
Just before the ceremony began, a group of second graders from nearby Morehead City Primary School walked up wearing red, white and blue shirts they had made and carrying American flags.
“We’re here to honor the veterans who died in the war,” said student George Lyle.
Teacher Stephanie Jones said many of the students may never get a chance to see the memorial in Washington, D.C. so she wanted to give them the experience of seeing the memorial while also providing a lesson in good citizenship.
They may be too young to have memories of the Vietnam era but Jones said it is not too early to teach them the meaning behind the wall and the significance of Memorial Day.
“They are too young to remember Vietnam but they are not too young to never forget,” Jones said.
Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at 910-382-2557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.