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Veterans of the Vietnam War
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May 17, 2001 in the midst of a twelve hour trip from Northern Virginia to the 3/5 Reunion at La Grange, Georgia, my wife and I stop at a rest area at the 100 mile marker in North Carolina on I-85, somewhere around Lexington.  We're in need of a pit stop and as I pull on to the exit ramp I see a sign that says North Carolina Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  I thought to myself, Oh wow, I wonder if it's here or is it just directions to somewhere close by.  After taking care of business I look for signs and see one that says Memorial with an arrow.  I'm thinking that if it's at a rest area it must be a statue or a plaque of some kind.  I'm going to find it. 

Walking past the rest area parking area I'm heading towards the interstate on ramp and see a sign that says Memorial.  Tromping along the sidewalk I see trees on the right and a depression, a bowl actually, and a Wall.  It is absolutely beautiful.  I can't believe it.  I stop, stunned, overwhelmed. Except for the Interstate traffic, it's quiet, serene and...empty, no one's there.

NCarolina Wall.jpg (22520 bytes)

click to enlarge

Going back for my wife, I drive the car around to the closest parking space. We get out and walk around to the entrance on the far side. Flanked by two giant flags (U.S. and North Carolina), we start on the red brick walkway.  There are plaques on both sides disclosing the names of the folks and organizations involved in building this Memorial.  This plaque is in front:

NCarolina Plaque.jpg (109992 bytes)

This is a high resolution picture so you can read the words, be patient with opening speed when you click it.

206,000 North Carolinians served in the War and over 1600 died.  The names of those who died are commemorated here:

NCarolina Wall2.jpg (53601 bytes)

click to enlarge

The names are inscribed in the brick on the Wall and some also on the first two sets of walkway bricks abutting it so that folks will have an easier time finding a particular order.  They are in alphabetical order.

As you walk around the circular path you are surrounded by young saplings, maybe 15 feet tall.  Around each one is a yellow ribbon.  On the ribbon, a North Carolinian is listed by name and date he was KIA.

NCarolina Yellow Ribbon.jpg (34457 bytes)

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This was one shock after another for us, I had a tough time holding the camera steady.

We had to leave because we still had 300-400 miles to go but I didn't want to, I just wanted to sit on one of the many benches in that perfect bowl that blocked out most of the traffic noise and reflect.  We both vowed that on any trip we took this way we would always stop here.

NCarolina Wall entrance.jpg (17510 bytes)

Entrance to Memorial, taken from the Wall, click to enlarge

I had not been feeling well, was tired and doubting my ability to make the trip in one day. This stop did something...can't really explain it except that it was highly emotional, and did something to my soul.  I was no longer tired and never did get tired again that day. 

It was serendipitous that we found this wonderful, simple, Memorial and I ascribe it to more than just coincidence.  I hope these poor words have given you some feel for the experience and a desire to visit it yourself one day.

Semper Fidelis,

Ed McCurry

Memorial Day, 2001

For a story behind one of the names on the Wall please see the story on the next page.  Just click on the link.