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Visit the Wall, help the cause

If you haven’t seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., then be sure to visit Rio Grande Park in Aspen this weekend. If the 4/5-scale replica that veteran John Hoepfer is bringing to town is anything like the real thing ” and we reckon it is ” then it will knock your socks off.

The memorial is an 8-foot-tall, 400-foot-long wall. Listed on the wall are the names of all the soldiers who died in Vietnam between the early 1960s and early 1970s. Thousands of names. Tens of thousands of names.

In each name is a life that ended abruptly and unexpectedly.

It quiets one’s soul to stand next to that wall of unfinished stories. It’s impossible not to imagine the faces that go with the names: the dead soldiers, their grieving parents, their brothers, sisters, wives, children, lovers and friends. It’s sadder still to think of those other names, the soldiers who died without anyone remembering them at all.

The replica, part of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, will be set up on Thursday and available for viewing over the entire weekend.

Two speakers were originally scheduled for the weekend, but a shortfall in funds forced organizers to cancel their appearances. In their place will be a movie, “Dear America,” Saturday evening at Paepcke Auditorium.

We have John Hoepfer to thank for bringing the wall to town. Hoepfer, a Vietnam vet and longtime valley resident, put up $4,000 of his own money to ensure it gets here. As of May 12, he had only raised about $10,000 of the $30,000 or so needed to bring the whole program here.

Without the two speakers, the cost has dropped. But there is still quite a deficit to cover.

There are a number of ways to help. Visit the monument and purchase a T-shirt designed by Hoepfer. Make a donation at Alpine Bank to the Wall in Aspen account. Or drop some money in the bucket at the Paepcke Auditorium Saturday night.

Hoepfer said Tuesday that he expects his community to come to the rescue. To put it in his own words: “We feel confident that the Roaring Fork Valley will come through.”

For those of us who have seen the wall, the reasons to drop a few bucks are easy to grasp. We’re sure those who see it for the first time this weekend will understand just how worthwhile it is, too.


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