Vietnam Veterans Remembered
PARIS (September 3) — Thousands paid their respects to the war dead of the Vietnam War thanks to the “moving wall” being in Paris, Tennessee over the Labor Day weekend.
An estimated 58,220 American troops died in combat from 1955 to 1975, with American forces heavily involved during the 1960s and early 1970s. Considered the United States’ most unpopular war, American GI’s attempted to liberate the Democratic South Vietnamese from the oppressive Indochinese Communist Government headed by Ho Chi Mihn.
Vietnam veteran Larry Burke visited the memorial on Sunday. The 69-year old Army veteran said, “Those are the real heroes…they gave it all,” as he referred to the names of the war dead inscribed on the wall.
Larry Burke, a 69-year old Vietnam Veteran, visited the memorial on Sunday. Burke served in the United States Army.
“The Moving Wall” is the half-size replica of the Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has been touring the country for thirty-plus years. When John Devitt attended the 1982 dedication in Washington, he felt the positive power of “The Wall.” He vowed to share that experience with those who did not have the opportunity to go to Washington.
John, Norris Shears, Gerry Haver, and other Vietnam veteran volunteers built The Moving Wall. It went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas in October of 1984. Two structures of The Moving Wall now travel the USA from April through November, spending about a week at each site.
It was brought to Paris by the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. Veterans organizations provided security and assistance to visitors during its four-day stay.
In 1968, Burke was drafted into the Army. After basic training in Fort Campbell, and with stops in Louisiana and California, his next stop was in Vietnam. He was attached to the 101st from Fort Campbell.
Burke was twice wounded in country. On one incident, as the platoon radio operator, he was transporting the radio when the antenna was struck by lightning. He said he was thrown through the air “like a lightning bug.” He had a hole in his neck from the strike and it produced burned spots on his skin in five places. The lightning burned a hole in his radio and burned spots on his M16 rifle, and “busted open” his shoes. He was temporarily paralyzed from his waist down and had no recollection of what happened.
“It’s a miracle it didn’t kill me,” said Burke of the lightning strike. “By the grace of God, I am still here.”
He was treated and released from a medical facility and returned to his platoon.
On January 21, 1969, he was severely injured when a claymore mine detonated. His legs were severely damaged. One of his fellow soldiers died in the explosion. Burke, himself, popped the smoke canister to signal the helicopter for his evacuation.
He was airlifted to a Da Nang hospital, where doctors treated his injuries from his hips down.
Burke refused amputation and remained in the hospital for 2.5 months. He was told he would never walk again, but walk again, he did.
During his hospitalization, he kept in contact with his parents, Nannie Mae and James, through letters and audio cassettes.
When he returned home, he married Marilyn Moore of Trezevant. The union of 48 years produced three children, David, Teresa, and Adam. They have fostered 27 children and adopted three.
Burke has worked at the McKenzie Post Office since 1988 in maintenance and janitorial. One can see Burke working throughout the building and, at times, greeting postal patrons in the lobby.
Through the years, he worked at Gaines Manufacturing, Atlantic Homes, Ben Franklin, Coast to Coast Hardware, and briefly at Wal-Mart.
Vietnam was a very unpopular war during the 1960s and 70s.
Burke said Vietnam veterans are now getting the honor they deserve.
“Some people call it the Vietnam Conflict, but when people are shooting at you, I call it war,” concluded Burke.
The names listed on the memorial in downtown McKenzie list the following persons died in Vietnam: John M. Brown, III, Samuel Dumas, Clifford Herrin, Douglas House, Ray Jowers, Ray Phelps, Jr., Jearl Rimmer, James P. Williams, Michael Morgan, Terry Williams and William Ray.