From Texas Public Radio:
Outside the LBJ Library sits a long, black metal wall that was trucked in for the conference. It’s a half-scale-model of the black stone Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C., that’s etched with the names of servicemen who were killed or were missing in action.
At the traveling wall, veterans, now grey and grizzled, trace the names of long-lost loved ones. Some leave old pictures, letters and flowers beside the name.
San Antonio Army veteran Able White, who was stationed in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971 , said he’s visited the wall in Washington, D.C., but he could never force himself to get really close.
“I’ve never been able to walk up to that wall and look at it, so this will be my first time today. So, I’m going to grit through my fears and look for the names of my friends from high school that are on there,” White said.
White served as a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam, which was a job most soldiers didn’t want. He would find the entry points into a labyrinth of underground tunnels and caves the Viet-Cong used to move troops and ammunition from battle to battle.
At the wall White wept silently as he placed his index finger on the names of his friends. His twin brother- also a veteran stood with him.
Inside the conference center, historians, public figures and veterans mull over memories and discuss lessons learned. Baytown veteran Conrad Garcia served as a battlefield platoon sergeant and lost 15 of his men during his first battle. He said this week’s conference is part of the healing process.
“What I get from it is what our presidents went through and some of the dilemma that they went through. I don’t think they just haphazardly put us out there, they were trying to do the right thing. I really do believe they were trying to do the right thing,” Garcia said.
Corpus Christi veteran Arnoldo Chapa is among the veterans who were specially recognized by President Johnson’s daughter Lucy Baines Johnson. He described this week’s conference as a cool glass of water on a hot summer day.