ELYRIA — Wilma Workman brought a painting of her son to place at the traveling half-scale model of the Vietnam Memorial on Saturday.
She said she’s conflicted about how she feels about seeing the replica of the wall in her hometown or the name of her son, Calvin Coon — a 19-year-old Marine from Elyria who died in combat in 1968 — carved in it.
Workman said she appreciated the ceremony Saturday, which brought hundreds of veterans of Vietnam and other wars, along with family members and friends, to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1079 to pay their respects and remember the fallen.
“But it brings back too many memories,” she said. “It just brings back memories. It was a bad war.”
Bill Seagraves, executive director of VFW of Ohio Charities, acknowledged the controversial war, which claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American soldiers, when he spoke to the crowd gathered under the spring sun Saturday.
“You fought an unpopular war. You did a great job,” he said.
Saturday’s event included several speakers and a ceremony honoring prisoners of war and the missing in action, a reading of the names of 98 soldiers and sailors from Lorain County killed during the war and other honors for those whose names were on the wall.
Sam Felton Jr., who earned the Navy Cross during the war, told the crowd that he was pleased to see so many of his “grizzled brothers” from the war gathered to honor those who didn’t make it home.
“We’re not as young and fast as we used to be, but we still came out to pay our respects,” Felton said.
He urged people to remember the sacrifice of those who fought in the war.
“Over the course of the Vietnam War, innumerable acts of heroism, sacrifice and courage occurred,” he said.
Ed Manuel of Elyria said after the ceremony that he served in Korea during the Vietnam War, but Saturday’s ceremony hit especially hard for him.
He said he had just learned that his grandson, Jake Masters of Elyria, had been wounded Friday while serving with the Army in Iraq. Manuel said he didn’t know the details, but his grandson is now in Germany recovering from his wounds.
“It means a heck of a lot,” he said as he left the wall.
Manuel wasn’t the only person at Saturday’s ceremony thinking of Iraq.
Dave Tollett, the father of Sgt. Norman Lane Tollett, who was killed in Iraq in 2007 while serving with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, said he was honored that so many of the soldiers in his son’s unit came to Elyria this weekend to remember his son.
He said the wall meant more to him because of losing his son.
“When you lose one, the names on those walls get a whole lot bigger,” Dave Tollett said.
South Carolina native Terrence Washington, who served with Lane Tollett, said he was impressed with the respect Lorain County residents paid to soldiers.
“I’m in awe,” he said. “… Where I’m from, it’s not really a big deal being in the military.”
Carlis Morrow of Birmingham said he served in Vietnam in 1970 as a cook in the Army National Guard. He said he’s visited the permanent memorial in Washington, D.C., twice and the moving wall once before.
This was the first time, he said, that he was able to walk the entire length of it.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.