THE ISSUE: Thousands gathered at wall over 4 days
OUR VIEW: Important to remember sacrifices
While summing up the Moving Wall's five-day stay in Ottawa, Jim Ebner of the Oglesby American Legion said he hoped the wall brought comfort to some.
Though seeing more than 58,000 names of those who sacrificed all in Vietnam can be a solemn and melancholy experience, the outpouring of the thousands who visited the wall sent a message to those still grieving.
"I hope you have found this to be a time and place to honor those whose names are etched upon this wall," Ebner said. "For those dealing with the loss of loved ones or fallen comrades, may you find comfort and personal peace and know that you do not grieve alone."
The tribute is a strong message given the historical context of Vietnam, and how those veterans were largely ignored when they returned home.
Crowds remained steady to show their support, despite some rainy weather.
"People from all ages and from all walks of life, both near and far, have come to experience the presence of the Moving Vietnam Wall," Ebner said. "Some out of curiosity, some because of a newfound awareness of the history of the Vietnam War."
Whichever the reason, we commend the thousands who visited the wall.
Along with the more than 58,000 names on the walls that stretched across the grounds of the UAW Pat Greathouse Center, there were 2,941 American flags to denote those who were killed from Illinois and 33 crosses with photographs and short biographies of those from La Salle County.
The magnitude and scale of the war's impact was on display for both those who have a very personal connection to the conflict, as well as to newer generations who are learning and trying to make sense of it in the scope of American history.
For this experience, one that can only be rivaled by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, we commend organizers for bringing it to La Salle County in an interactive way.
Anyone can read about the history of Vietnam in a textbook, gaze at the statistics of the dead or see the conflict portrayed in movies, but nothing replaces the interaction that occurred over the past five days.
It provided an opportunity for us to learn, to grieve and to say thank you at long last.