ROCHESTER — The Vietnam War ended decades ago, but many people continue to struggle with its residual effects.
Since it arrived at American Legion Post 7 on Eastern Ave., Thursday, hundreds of area residents have visited the Indoor Cost of Freedom Tribute, which includes a 100-foot double-sized replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall
Post Commander Bob Talbot said the opening ceremonies were "standing room only" as veterans, city officials, the Spaulding High School Red Raider Marching Band and Junior Air Force JROTC team filled the hall Thursday evening.
Since then, the display has continued to draw interest, especially for residents of nursing homes, veterans, and those who have ties to the war.
Teri Whitter, a member of Post 7 Women's Auxiliary, said there has been a steady stream of visitors, and many took advantage of the quieter night-time hours.
"I think people have been impressed," Whitter said.
Talbot said a few visitors became very emotional at the tribute, recalling a fellow post member who he's known for years, but didn't know he lost family — in this case an older cousin — in Vietnam.
"He went to look at the wall and he broke down," Talbot said, adding eventually the man was able to talk about his "cooler older cousin" who was 19 when he deployed to Vietnam.As the man never traveled to Washington D.C., this was the first time he was able to find his cousin's name on the wall, said Talbot.
"If you've never been to D.C. to that closure, it's something," Talbot said, adding the double-sided indoor replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall is just as stirring.
Talbot, who's visited Washington several times, said he was compelled to pay his respects at the national monuments for veterans of the Korean War and World War II.
As the Rochester replica is flat and not embossed like the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Talbot said visitors could receive a printout of the names rather than get a rubbing of them. He added this display helps many people remember friends and family.
He said he was impressed with the presentation because it included details of past wars, tributes to police and firefighters, the names of troops who have died — especially in Iraq and Afghanistan — since 2000, and the names of those who died Sept. 11, 2001.
"We can reach out to more of the community," Talbot said, adding this was a great way forpeople to visualize the cost of war.
Talbot said students from area schools took part in a contest to answer questions and write an essay about the tribute.
He added younger residents may feel a closer tie to the events of Sept. 11, or the ongoing Global War on Terrorism tribute, which continues to expand.