ENUMCLAW, Wash. - The Vietnam War was a conflict that scarred a generation, and a piece of that history is on display in western Washington, triggering memories and emotion.
The people of Enumclaw helped their local VFW and area veterans raise money to host a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"It’s so powerful to know that every name here represents family and loss and a love of our country and the freedoms that we have," said Lynne Snyder while holding back tears during her visit at the memorial wall.
Nearly 60,000 names are engraved on the stone wall. Anne Hendrickson visited the replica to find a list of her classmates killed during the war.
"It’s kind of unsettling...to find one person’s name but to see thousands and thousands of names. It’s disturbing," said Hendrickson. "These were all young guys. Some didn’t even have families. They were all young, just out of high school."
Veteran Benjamin Craig Presas was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot during the war, from 1969-1970. He traveled from Seattle to visit the wall, find the names of his pilot instructor and eight friends killed in combat.
"Remember all the different things that we did—we flew together, we had a great time together. And we had some real tough times too, but we don’t want to remember those," said Presas.
Presas said he once visited the real monument, located in Washington, D.C., but said it was too crowded to find the names of his fellow pilots. He said having the opportunity to see the large replica in Enumclaw gives him time to pay his friends their respects and find some healing of his own.
"I came here because I’m doing it for myself also," he said.
Some Vietnam veterans were brought to tears as they looked at the thousands of names for the first time. Others were joined by loved ones to learn about the war’s history and the people who served in it. Snyder was there to take pictures to show her brother-in-law who was a Marine that survived Vietnam.
"He lost his whole unit, died. He survived and he always questioned why? Why did he survive and all his friends died?" said Snyder while looking at the wall. "These are the people that died. But think of the people that went and the things they saw. And then to come back and the welcome that they maybe didn’t receive, what have they lived with since."
Presas took his time at the wall to relive most of the good and some of the painful history. However, while looking at the several thousands of names engraved in stone, he said he hopes history doesn’t repeat itself.
"These kinds of remembrances sort of hit you hard sometimes because now all those guys that died they missed all of this, you know? And for what reason? It’s still to be debated," said Presas. "I just hope that our succeeding generations won’t make the same mistake and sacrifice generations of young men."
The memorial wall is open around the clock from Aug. 5-8. It’s free to visit at Enumclaw Middle School on the soccer field. Volunteers are ready to search the name and help visitors find it on the wall.
The traveling replica will head to the east coast after its time in western Washington.
Stay connected with Q13 News on all platforms: