The Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall has come to and gone from Rugby, leaving behind a feeling of somberness and some closure for relatives and friends. Those veterans who were killed in the longest war in United States history will not be forgotten because of this beautiful memorial.
The opening ceremony on Thursday night, August 4, set the tone for the weekend of remembrance. It was to be solemn, patriotic, thought-provoking, and touching to the heart. One older gentleman sobbed quietly as he remembered a loss. Wreaths were placed near the Wall by American Legion and VFW auxiliaries.
Over 200 people came to each of the night ceremonies from area towns as well as Rugby. Some were family members of those on the wall, some were friends, and others just wanted to pay their respects. During the four nights and days that the Wall was displayed here, people came in small groups or alone. Some stayed a few minutes, others spent more time.
One woman talked of closure for her in her uncle's death in Vietnam. She said she sat by the Wall where his name was etched and talked to him and said goodbye.
Volunteers spent shifts at The Wall to help people find names of loved ones and listen to people talk about their loved ones. For some this is the only glimpse of the Vietnam Memorial they will ever see. The Moving Wall is an exact replica of the Memorial in Washington, D.C., only scaled down.
The candlelight ceremony on Saturday night was very moving. All 199 names of those from North Dakota who died in the Vietnam War were read one by one and a bell was tolled for each one. People with tears in their eyes were common sights. At the end, a moment of silence was held for the 30 soldiers killed in Afghanistan that very day.
All three ceremonies had different towns' American Legion honor guards presenting the colors, speaking, and adding to the ceremony. Rugby, Rolette, Bottineau, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa all participated in one or the other of the ceremonies.
During the closing ceremony, Chippewa leaders performed a special tobacco ceremony near the wall for all soldiers whose names are etched on it. The Native Americans spoke at the closing ceremony, as well.
All three nights featured patriotic songs, with a different singer each night. Steve Mueller, Sara Selensky and Galen Mack were the soloists. The colors were presented, the pledge of allegiance was spoken, a 21-gun salute was fired and taps was played by Tilman Hovland.
The last night, Sunday, August 7, Daryl Kuhnhenn, commander, Rugby American Legion, who was the main push behind getting The Moving Wall to Rugby, spoke. Kuhnhenn would brush off any credit, saying that many others helped him and they did and should be commended, as well. But keeping alive the memories of the Vietnam veterans who died in the war is a passion with Kuhnhenn . Everything he does is in their honor.
"The veterans (of all wars) wrote a blank check to the USA for up to and including their lives," said Kuhnhenn. "If we the people forget their sacrifice, then they have died in vain."