By Kristi Eaton
The Associated Press
ENID — A new permanent wall that has become Oklahoma’s official memorial dedicated to veterans of the Vietnam War will offer healing, love and unity to the men and women who served, a former prisoner of war said Monday.
Retired Air Force Col. Lee Ellis was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Woodring Wall of Honor and Veterans Park at Woodring Regional Airport in Enid. Ellis’ plane was shot down in 1967 and he spent the next five years as a prison of war alongside Arizona Sen. John McCain in Hanoi and surrounding camps. The wall, Ellis said, will help ensure that the men and women who served are never forgotten.
“As people come to this wall from all over the state and maybe neighboring states to see this wall and see their friends that didn’t come home, to touch those names and to remember them, it’s going to bring healing, love and unity,” said Ellis, a leadership consultant, author and public speaker who lives in Atlanta.
Ellis, who has four friends listed on the wall, said that in the back of every POW’s mind is that they will be left and forgotten about.
“The one thing this wall brings to us is that these people — these men and women on that wall — will never be forgotten. Those of us who came home must never let those who could not be forgotten,” he said.
The wall, which lists the names of more than 58,000 soldiers killed in the war, had visited more than 200 communities as been part of a traveling exhibit but will now become Oklahoma’s official memorial to those who served in the Vietnam war, said Don Allen, president of American Veterans Traveling Tribute who sold the wall for $500,000. The wall is a smaller replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was invited to participate in the dedication but was unable to attend. Instead, Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, read a letter from her and former President George W. Bush. Anderson said Fallin is scheduled to take part in a dedication ceremony of the wall on Wednesday night.
Alvin E. Langham was one of several hundred people who turned out for the dedication event. Though he had already seen the wall at several of its stops over the years, Langham, a Vietnam veteran, said he felt compelled to be in attendance at its dedication near his home in Enid.
The wall is a way to “honor our dead that didn’t make it home and the ones that did come back and are dead,” the 62-year-old retired truck driver said.
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