August 23, 2012
Viet Nam War Traveling Wall erected in Missoula
By B.L. Azure
The traveling replica of the Viet Nam War memorial made its third stop at Missoula last weekend. (B.L. Azure photo)
MISSOULA — For many Americans, the Viet Nam War is a faded memory or not a memory at all. However for those who fought in it or those who lost loved ones, the Southeast Asian war is an omnipresent shadow that has followed them for decades.
Sometimes the shadow is faded and other times the shadow is darkly vibrant. Last weekend with the Missoula stop of the half-size replica of the Viet Nam War Memorial the shadows were present — a dark and vibrant reminder for many of those who trekked to the University of Montana campus in search of the names of the lost brothers, sisters, fathers, sons and friends posted on the Traveling Wall. For them the Viet Nam War is never over, the collateral damage has struck in a different place and time.
Dan Gallagher, commandant of the Missoula-based American Legion Post 101 gave the welcoming address at the opening ceremony of the Traveling Wall on the UM campus. (B.L. Azure photo)
The Viet Nam War Memorial was a veteran driven effort meant to shed light on and honor the ultimate sacrifices of those whose lives were lost in an unpopular war in that far away country so long ago.
Dan Gallagher, commander of the Missoula-based American Legion “Forgotten Warriors” Post 101, said the Traveling Wall has been set up three times in the Garden City. In the late 1990s it was set up at the Missoula County Fairgrounds and in 2007 it was set up at Fort Missoula.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock and Democrat candidate for the governorship of Montana laid a state flag at the base of the Traveling Wall Friday. (B.L. Azure photo)
Through the years Gallagher has been walking point of the effort to pay the deserved homage to those killed in action in Viet Nam. He was country when country wasn’t cool.
For attorney Gallagher, a Charlo High School and University of Montana graduate, the Viet Nam War Memorial brings back the spirits of those killed in the war. He has visited the memorial in Washington, D.C. and has been the local contact that has spearheaded the Traveling Wall stops in Missoula.
The Flathead Reservation Warrior Society presented the colors at Friday’s opening ceremony of the Traveling Wall. (B.L. Azure photo)
In Friday’s opening ceremony Viet Nam War widow, Janet Vaughn, lit the flame of remembrance that will burn throughout the Traveling Wall’s stay in Missoula. Vaughn said she still suffers emotionally from the untimely death of her husband in the Viet Nam War. John P. Vaughn, a member of the U.S. Army was killed in action more than 46 years ago.
“John has been gone for a long time,” she said. “But the pain, it never goes away.”
Janet Vaughn, widow of John P. Vaughn, an Army soldier killed in action in the Viet Nam War, lit the flame of the fire that burned during the Traveling Wall stop in Missoula. (B.L. Azure photo)
The opening ceremony included the Flathead Reservation Warrior Society’s posting of the colors that consisted of an American flag, the Flathead Nation flag, an eagle staff and a war spear.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock also took part in Friday’s opening commemoration with a speech and a lying of the Montana flag at the base at the apex of the half-size replica of the Viet Nam War Memorial.
LeGrande Harvey and Rod Brod performed the official state song of Montana at the Traveling Wall’s opening ceremony. Harvey penned the song that became the official state song. (B.L. Azure photo)
Bullock, the Democrat candidate for the governorship of Montana, also read some of the names of young men from the central- and north-western Montana killed in action in the Viet Nam War that claimed American lives.
More than 58,000 young men and women were killed in the Viet Nam War that lasted from 1957 through 1975. Included in the black granite memorial erected in the Washington, D.C. Mall between the Lincoln and Washington monuments are the chiseled names of 266 Montanans.
The 250-foot long replica of the Viet Nam War Memorial was set up on the University of Montana campus just north of the Harry Adams Fieldhouse last Thursday and dismantled Sunday.