It's hard to find a Vietnam veteran standing in front of the Vietnam War Memorial in Rogers Park without hearing them talk about a person who didn't make it. It's been 40 or more years, but they're looking for a name. They've got a panel number and a line number and they're searching through 58,000 people to find one.
Richard Raymond, a veteran who served in Europe during the Korean War, was looking for three students he taught in Georgetown who later served in Vietnam. Roger Burke, a twin, decided to stay an extra month until his brother got out.
"He got killed then," said Raymond, commander of the Catholic War Veterans on Shalvoys Lane, Danbury.
He was looking for David Carlson, killed by a landmine. And he was looking for Warren Vought Jr.
"I don't know how he got killed," Raymond said. "He was a football star with Wilton High School. He had about two weeks to go."
The wall's facts are distressing. The youngest Vietnam KIA is believed to be Dan Bullock, 15. The oldest person is Dwaine McGriff, 63. At least five people killed in Vietnam were 16. More than 17,000 people listed on the wall were married.
Bob Madore of Danbury, a veteran who served from 1966 to 1969, and two of those years in Vietnam, was looking for a young friend of his from Illinois. "He and I were friends from Day 1."
"He had just killed a Viet Cong in a spider hole. He turned around and said, 'I got the son of a bitch,' when he was shot in the back," Madore said. "His name was Ronald D. Jewell."
Madore made a rubbing of Jewell's name on the small paper designed for that purpose given to people looking for a person on the wall. The paper tells them the panel and line number. On the paper's large blank space, they can make a rubbing of the name engraved on the panel.
Madore said he came back from the war angry in 1969, and he was angry for years afterward.
"It wasn't a right war. We had 58,000 killed. That says it all. It was a politician's war," Madore said.
In honor of the wall coming to Danbury for the first time, the city and its veterans held an opening ceremony attended by more than 200 people.
Michael Martel, a director of the traveling Dignity Memorial, said the people of Danbury, led by its veterans and workers from the Green Funeral Home, worked tirelessly for a year to bring the wall to town. The wall is owned by a nationwide group of funeral homes and crematoriums, and it travels nationwide from town to town. Green, a member of the Dignity group, brought it to Danbury.
"They gave it all for us," Martel said. "The true price of liberty is carved on this wall."
"Today we honor the ultimate sacrifice they made," said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. "Long may we remember all they have contributed to a grateful nation."
Regina Ofiero, the spouse of a Vietnam veteran who died on July 19, 2011 of leukemia brought on by Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Vietnam, said the war took a long, hard toll on her husband, Francis P. Ofiero.
"He came home from Vietnam on a stretcher," Regina Ofiero said.