Friday, September 26, 2008

Moving Wall Brings Back Memories

The Moving Wall, a half size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, is now on display in Miamisburg (my hometown from 1949-1980). I've written two pieces for the Dayton Daily News in recent weeks about the wall, one advancing the visit, another profiling one of the individuals responsible for bringing it here.

This afternoon, Mom (below) and I made a visit. As it was a Friday afternoon, it was only moderately busy but I was touched by the people taking rubbings by pressing crayons to paper and by the mementos laid at the foot of the wall. It was a pleasant sunny day and this helped buoy the atmosphere in Library Park.

My only personal connection to the Vietnam era - besides being a college student at the time - was having a friend who would go to the Asian country and not return. Gary McKiddy was the one most on my mind as I walked along the wall. Who would not be touched by the 58,256 names inscribed there, all that potential lost?

Gary McKiddy (4/1/1950 - 5/6/1970) and I never had a chance to develop a very close friendship but it was one I cherished just the same. I first met him at his father's Shell station in Miamisburg (Central & Lawrence). I had known his Dad for some years, buying gas there every now and then. Eventually, when Gary began pumping gas (for you young readers, gasoline once came from a service station), we met and hit it off pretty quickly. He was interested in attending Miami University-Middletown which I had attended my first two years of college. One day we drove there together, toured the campus and had a memorably afternoon together.

It wasn't long thereafter - maybe a year -that I heard he had been killed in Cambodia. I didn't even know he had joined the Army rather than going to college.

Though I knew Gary for only a short while, he had one of those spectacular personalities, one that you can never forget. His loss is my loss as it is a loss for everyone who knew him.

To read more about Gary, go to:

The Moving Wall is in Miamisburg 09/25 - 09/29.