Friday, April 27, 2001

Small wall holds big reminder

Traveling Vietnam Memorial carries names of dead

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SHARONVILLE — They came in search of names.

        Schoolchildren who wore wristbands with the names of soldiers. A man from West Chester who came in search of a fraternity brother who never made it back from Vietnam. A man from Covington who came to look for his cousin.

[photo] Howard Warner of West Chester, looking for the name of a college friend killed in the war.
(Dick Swaim photos)
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        They found the names on the shiny black aluminum wall that stretched for 123 feet along a ball field at Sharonville Elementary School.

        The Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial — The Wall That Heals — arrived at the school Wednesday. A closing ceremony will be at 9 a.m. Monday.

        The Traveling Wall is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which has become one of the most popular monuments in the capital. That wall is of black granite and bears the names of about 58,000 Americans who lost their lives during the Vietnam War, 1959-1975.

        Kara Lewis, 11, a fifth-grader at the school, was one of thousands of students visiting the Traveling Wall on Wednesday and Thursday. She held her wrist aloft and displayed a band that bore the name of David Lewis.

[photo] A girl's finger traces a name on the wall, a black aluminum replica of the black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
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        Although Kara didn't know when Mr. Lewis was killed, or how, she found his name on panel 19 west, row 62. And she was bit unnerved by the fact that the name of the soldier was the same as her brother's.

        “At first I was a little scared,” she said. “But the wall is a very powerful thing. When you see your reflection you feel like you can jump right into the wall and feel the power.”

        Lt. Jerry Sipple, who is in the Ohio military reserves and lives in Covington, found his cousin, Robert Duncan on the wall.

   The Traveling Wall is open to the public 24 hours a day through Sunday at Sharonville Elementary, 11150 Maple Road.
        “He was just an easygoing, nice boy,” said Lt. Sipple, whose cousin was killed in 1965. “Never got into trouble, always wanted to do good. That's why he joined the Army.

        “He stepped on a land mine.”

        Howard Warner, of West Chester, came to find Medard A.J. Ruehle, who was a fraternity brother at Ohio State in the early 1960s. Mr. Ruehle, who lived in Upper Sandusky, was killed April 11, 1967.

        “I couldn't believe it,” said Mr. Warner, of learning of his friend's death. Then his voice cracked. “I mean, look what they put a whole generation through.”

        Pat Bowes, the Sharonville teacher who helped bring the Traveling Wall to the school grounds, said about 15,000 people are expected to visit.

        “These guys were real,” the teacher said. “We're not here just to pay respect to the fact that they died, but that they lived. People care. A wall without learning is just a wall.”

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