Traveling Vietnam Memorial comes to Manito

By Marc Strauss

September 2, 2010 Updated Sep 2, 2010 at 9:02 PM CDT

(MANITO) - Vietnam veteran Joe Hajny came from Washington, Illinois, to visit the traveling Vietnam wall memorial. And the first thing he did was find a familiar name.

"Michael Stacey, my high school friend friend," said Hajny, who served as an E-5 Specialist in the Army.

"It makes me think what those men and women could have contributed to society had they been alive."

There are over 58,000 names on the scale replica, same as the one that's in Washington, D.C. The replica travels the country and is in Manito this weekend.

School teacher Tracey Canada brought her class from Midwest Central Primary School to see it.

"I think its important for the kids to find out about their heritage and what our country was founded on," said Canada. "A lot of the kids don't realize all of the men and women who fought for us just so we could have the freedoms we have."

The emotions created by seeing and touching the wall are as numerous as the names etched in it.

Norm Lacer served in Vietnam for two years and wonders if recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan could have been different.

"The first thing I thought of was, oh, God, not another Vietnam. I don't think I was alone. I think a lot of people thought that way. I'm glad to see some movement the other direction and I hope it continues," said Lacer.

About 50 yards from the traveling Vietnam memorial is a smaller Cost of Freedom tribute. It's a display of gold dog tags with the names of the casualties since Vietnam. Kevin Weatherly served with some of them in Iraq. It pains him each time he has to add a dog tag to the board.

"The most recent update I did was 116 names, so I think its very relevant to today's times and the ongoing wars that we find ourselves in," said Weatherly.

The traveling Vietnam memorial is on display at Memorial Park in Manito. It's free and open to the public 24 hours a day through 8 pm on Sunday.