Kim Barkey and Kathy Hamilton came to the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Perryopolis in search of their brother’s name.
The Monongahela sisters were 4 and 7 when their older brother Staff Sgt. Donald J. Fawcett was killed in 1966 in Vietnam. Fawcett was 25.
“I remember his funeral, which I thought was a parade,’’ said Barkey. “He was a Green Beret, in Special Forces.’’
“What I remember is my mother. She was a basket case,’’ said Hamilton, “and all the family was around.’’
A locator booth provided the women with the panel and line numbers to find their brother’s name on the wall. Hamilton has been to the actual Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., but both were touched to see their brother’s name on this traveling wall.
“It’s a little emotional,’’ said Barkey, who did a tracing of her brother’s name. “Just to see all these names – not just his but all these names.’’
The sisters are among the many making a pilgrimage to the traveling memorial, stationed at the Frazier School District campus where it is open for visitation 24 hours a day through Aug. 12. People walk by quietly with respect. A sign announces this is hallowed ground.
This replica is smaller in size than the original but still impressive as it bears the names of the more than 58,000 who died in Vietnam. Fayette County saw 49 killed in the war while another is listed as missing in action.
Funding for this visit included a $8,500 tourism grant through the Fayette County hotel tax obtained by Perry Township Supervisors, who budgeted another $2,000 in tax dollars to acquire the memorial. Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department and Perryopolis Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7023 are hosting.
A.J. Boni, Perry Township supervisor and fire chief, earlier said, “We thought it was a good idea and the right thing to do.’’
Gene Loomis of Uniontown came to see the names of two people she knew on the wall, including Richard Malaspina who was from her hometown of Ralph in German Township and died in Vietnam in 1966.
“He was two years younger. He was a nice, quiet kid. He joined the Marines,’’ said Loomis, who also came because her grandson was among the Scouts who helped lead the Pledge of Allegiance during the opening ceremony.
Many feel the draw to the memorial.
Kenny Fine of Whitsett who had friends sent to Vietnam and served for nine years in the Army Reserves, said, “I just felt it was here and I had to see it.’’
Fine graduated Frazier in 1970 and was in the 12th grade during the 1969 draft lottery.
“If I’d have been called, I’d have gone. Personally, I think it was a rich man’s war,’’ said Fine, who referred to the protest song “Fortunate Son’’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival and talked about how the war ended with the fall of Saigon.
Glenn Nielsen, of Grindstone, president of Vietnam Veterans Inc. that maintains the Fayette County Vietnam Memorial in Hopwood and has an annual vigil each May, joined volunteers in setting up the traveling memorial at Frazier.
“We had a big crowd here putting it together,’’ said Nielsen, who was among veterans attending the opening ceremony.
Gary Skibo of Fayette City is also a VVI member and was part of the American Legion Riders who accompanied the traveling memorial from its arrival in Fayette County at the industrial park in Smithfield to the Frazier campus.
“I have a couple of friends on the wall,’’ said Skibo, who served two tours with the Navy. “You have bitter thoughts and happy thoughts – a lot of memories come back.’’
But it means a lot to Skibo to have the traveling memorial here.
Skibo said, “It’s an honor to all of us.’’