“I witnessed a woman and her daughter moving slowly from panel to panel. I got closer. I just wanted to see if they needed some help finding somebody, but they were just reading names. Saying them softly under their breath,” said Jim Hollister, chairman of the board, Rolling Thunder, North Carolina, Chapter 1, to the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Moving Wall at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, Saturday.
“The best way we can honor those listed on that wall, and the best way we can honor the Families of those listed on that wall, is to say their names aloud and we will never forget,” he said.
The Moving Wall is a half -size replica of the Vietnam War Memorial located in Washington, D.C.
Since 1984, the Moving Wall has brought the names of those lost in the Vietnam War to cities across the country. There are 58,318 names on both memorials.
Hollister, a veteran who retired after 24 years in the Air Force, spoke to the crowd of attendees on behalf of himself and former prisoner of war, Ray Schrump. Schrump was slated to speak but was unable to attend. Hollister explained that he hoped to speak the words he felt Shrump would have chosen to share. He described Schrump as a true patriot.
“He loves his country and he has dedicated his life to her, he loves her veterans and he loves those who serve today … If he were standing here right now, talking to you, his message would be that of patriotism,” said Hollister. “He would be thanking the Families who are here today for the love and the support that they provide. He would be thanking God for the strength provided him when he needed it most. And finally, he would thank all the veterans here today.”
Hollister read the names of 39 Soldiers from North Carolina who are still missing in action. As he read each name, attendees and members of Rolling Thunder Chapter 1 stood at attention or placed hands over their hearts behind a missing man table — a table set symbolically for those members of the armed services who did not make it home.
Guest Speaker Sgt. 1st Class William Poston, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) then spoke to the crowd about his experiences with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
For three years, Poston traveled the world to assist in bringing home and identifying the remains of missing Soldiers, seeking to aid in providing closure for Families of those who are MIA.
Poston spoke of his time traveling in Vietnam to search for missing Soldiers.
“I reminisced about the Green Berets who came before me … and for everything that you’ve done, it’s changed, there are people … not oppressed … it was for something; it wasn’t for nothing,” said Poston to the Vietnam War veterans in the crowd.
The Moving Wall was erected at the ASOM parade field the morning of Nov. 9 and remained open 24 hours a day until Monday, hosting what Hollister described as short, but powerful meetings between volunteers and visitors.