Friends and family remember loved ones on the Dignity Memorial V - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Friends and family remember loved ones on the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall

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COLUMBUS, Ga. - The Dignity Memorial Vietnam wall is taking a break from traveling. It's home for the next 5 years will be at the National Infantry Museum just outside the gates of Fort Benning. Hundreds of Vietnam veterans, families and friends came out to the dedication ceremony Friday morning to honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country. The ceremony took place immediately after a new group of infantry soldiers graduated. Retired General Barry McCaffrey says the dedicated could not have come at a better time.

"The central opportunity to dedicate this wall. 58,000 some odd killed in action. It's an amazing statement to these wonderful young men who stepped forward to defend us in the future," said McCaffrey.

The wall is a 3/4 scale replica of the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C. It's traveled to more than 200 cities across the United State for more than 20 years.

But Friday marked the first opportunity for many men and women to view their loved one's names on the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall. It was an unforgettable experience for many veterans, finally given the opportunity to honor and remember their fallen friends in a tangible way.

What's in a name? Like this one, Gary H. Rogers. It may not mean much to you but for David Icard its the reason he joined the Marine Corp.

"He was a friend of min and he was in the Marines at the time when I graduated from high school in 1964. He talked me into going into the Marine Corp and I went through Paris Island in 1964," said Icard.

Icard remembers good times with his friend Gary. Hunting and fishing while he was home on leave. At the dedication ceremony Friday morning, Icard was able to see his friend's name on the wall for the first time. He drove all the way from Marion County for the experience.

"It doesn't feel good that he's not here but it makes me feel great that they are honoring the Vietnam veterans,' said Icard.

Icard is one of the hundreds of people who came to Columbus Friday morning to remember their loved ones. Visitors were able to see the names of their fallen service members. Some spent a couple of precious moments etching the names to keep for themselves. Many in attendance had a number of comrades whose names are memorialized. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Orson Swindle is one of them. He served in the Vietnam war and visits the memorial in Washington D.C. frequently. He says every time he goes to the wall it's like visiting old friends.

"It's memories everywhere. It's about remembering. That's what it's all about. I think it's important that we make an effort to always remember because if you forget it's gone," said Swindle.

The wall arrived in Columbus just a couple weeks ago. It was escorted by more than 1,000 motorcyclists.

Naomi Keitt

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