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The Wall inspires pride and reflection

Posted: Friday, Oct 5th, 2012

The Wall on display in Fort Bridger was guarded by local officials and lent silent testimony to soldiers who “gave their all.” PIONEER PHOTOS/Virginia Giorgis


Pioneer Editor

“…I see the wall and names…think but the grace of God, go I.”

Jerry Valentine

FORT BRIDGER – The Wall, 370 feet with American names etched top to bottom, tells the story of the loss of life of the Viet Nam war. Hundreds, thousands – actually 58,195 names – tell the story of the loss of American lives in a war long foreseen as unwinnable.

The Vietnam War was the prolonged struggle between nationalist forces attempting to unify the country of Vietnam under a communist government and the United States (with the aid of the South Vietnamese) attempting to prevent the spread of communism.

This wall, “The Wall,” was in place at the Fort Bridger Historic Site last week. It rolled into place on Wednesday and was officially opened on Thursday. It is an 80 percent replica of the actual wall in Washington D.C known as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Reveille, the plaintive sound of the bagpipe, mind-sorrowing taps and patriotic songs bounced across the area as visitors had a chance to walk the timeline of all the wars the United States has been involved in, which were also included in the exhibit.

Themes running through the event included pride in America, pride in America’s military, giving thanks to veterans, and although the costs may sometimes be great, living in America and freedom is a privilege Americans enjoy.

According to Shelly Horne Thursday evening as he was recapping the life of Evanston patriot Richard Paul Cazin, tours in Viet Nam fluctuated from “hours of sheer boredom to sheer terror.” Private Cazin was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for his action in the battle that took his life in 1968. He had repeatedly placed himself in the line of fire trying to locate the enemy. The award cited Cazin’s “aggressiveness and devotion to duty” during the battle.

Also on the docket was Bridger Valley’s own, Craig Slade Blackner of Lyman. His information was presented by Retired Colonel Robert Fiero. Two cousins fighting the same war thousands of miles away from home. Grandsons of Joseph W. Slade of Lyman, both had graduated from Lyman High School.

Fiero said Blackner’s love and duty of country began at an early age. Blackner had joined a contingence of the Civil Air Patrol stationed at Fort Bridger while in the eighth grade. He earned his rank of 2nd Lieutenant at Tulane University where he received his master degree in 1961. In 1963, Blackner received his wings in the Air Force. In 1966, a fatal crash took his life.

On Saturday, keynote speaker Jerry Valentine of Evanston talked of his tour in Vietnam.

“So many people. So many emotions. I’m humbled by this wall,” Valentine said. He said he was proud to have been a soldier in Vietnam because he was fighting for a country that was “the best in the planet...men and women on the wall…they gave their all so we can enjoy life as it is” in America.

He also urged people to remember “Freedom is not free. It never has been and never will be.”

His “first reflection” was the “fear of just getting there” The flight took 17 hours and as the plane descended into an air base near Saigon, it went into a “spiral with a rapid loss of altitude.” This was to “reduce the exposure time at low altitudes” for the plane from ground fire.

Soldiers in Vietnam fought a different type of war. Thrown against guerilla type fighting, American bases were hit and the enemy was gone before the soldiers could react.

For the complete article see the 10-05-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-05-2012 paper.

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