FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – In the Spring of 2021, the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum unveiled the Vietnam Memorial Wall, an 80% replica of the original Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. It’s now a permanent display on the grounds that draws visitors near and far to reflect and remember our fallen heroes.
This Memorial Day, WANE 15 met with two local Vietnam War veterans who explained what Memorial Day means to them, and what the Vietnam Wall means to veterans and families of fallen service members.
“If you look at the names on the wall that we’re standing next to, that’s who it’s all about. My day is Veterans Day, but my fallen brothers and sisters, it is Memorial Day and it’s all about them,” said Vietnam War veteran Patrick Fraizer. “It isn’t about picnics, it isn’t about family outings, it’s not a sale at a store, it’s about the fallen heroes, the women and men who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives. As God did for our sins, a veteran did for our freedom.”
The Vietnam Memorial Wall at the shrine off of O’Day Road has thousands of names etched into the black stone. On it, 79 veterans from Fort Wayne, and 1,500 from Indiana.
Vietnam War veteran Eric Johnson knows a handful of names on the wall, and he visits them each time he’s there.
“That hits home because we know those guys and we sit here and enjoy the freedom today of being able to come to the wall, but when you think about what their sacrifice was, and how their families are suffering today still 50 years later, it just does our heart good to come out here and visit the wall and see their names and talk to them,” said Johnson.
People come from all across the region to visit the wall. Johnson says he’s met people from Michigan, Idaho, Ohio and more. Some come to find closure they’ve been searching for for many years.
“There are emotions when I’m glad I’m here, there are emotions when I wish they were here, and in spirit they are, and it feels good to walk up and touch the name of a close friend, and be able to close those feelings when they lost their life,” said Fraizer. “It gives us a place to come and reflect, a chance to sit down and give that love and honor that they deserve.”
New to the shrine this year are six granite benches that face the wall. All were donated by local organizations that remember and honor veterans like the Disabled American Veterans and the Allen County Council of Veterans. Elmhurst High school also donated two benches that honor all veterans who attended the school, including three who were killed in Vietnam. The hope is that people can sit comfortably on the benches to reflect on the lives lost in all wars.
The Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum is currently working on building a new chapel on the grounds as well as a new museum.