Traveling Tribute Vietnam Wall gives many veterans, families chance to experience memorial

PARMA, Ohio - Displaying the names of 58,300 servicemen and women, one of four travelling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Walls attracted hundreds to the Parma campus of Cuyahoga Community College on Thursday.

Many of those drawn to the traveling display are veterans themselves for whom visiting the wall is an emotional and cathartic experience.

Gary Counihan traveled from Chicago to find the name of Parma native Robert Dalton.

"About two or three years ago I started thinking about this and started to realize that the only reason I'm here is because Bob Dalton took my place that night," said Counihan.

Counihan says he was serving in Vietnam, part of a helicopter crew, when he was eating dinner March 21, 1969.

"We had a scramble and Bob came by and said finish your dinner, I'll take it. I was in line for mail call when I heard the crash and all four of them on board were killed on the crash," said Counihan.

"For 40-some years I never really thought about it one way or another and then I realized the only reason that I'm here probably is because of him," said Counihan.

The wall is an 80-percent scale replica of the permanent wall in Washington, D.C. but contains all of the names of those honored there.

Jerry Murphy, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, visited the site in Parma.

Murphy says after three aborted attempts to visit the wall in Washington he was finally escorted to the 'apex' of the permanent memorial where he heard "welcome home" for the first time.

"That's the first time I ever heard that. That's the magic words now; we like to hear, 'thank you for your service and welcome home,'" said Murphy, fighting tears.

"I get very emotional. I get emotional just standing next to this wall. I came too close to being on it," he added.

"It's very emotional. These guys come, we served with these guys by your side; they are gone and you are not, all in the blink of an eye," said John Hohne who served in Vietnam from 1971-'72.

Hohne, who now helps with the traveling wall as it makes stops throughout northern Ohio, says for him the wall in Washington began a healing process after the first time he saw it.

The traveling wall gives veterans and their families who may never have an opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. a chance to experience the memorial.

"For as many as do there's still those that don't want anything to do with any part of it; they are just, they are in their own little bubble but we try to bring them out try to get the healing process going," said Hohne.

The travelling wall will be on display at Tri-C in Parma through July 1. Admission is free.