U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Tom Kilduff of Meeker was involved in bringing the Vietnam Moving Wall memorial to Meeker in 1996, and he will guard the memorial during its Craig visit Thursday through Monday.

Photo by Dan Olsen

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Tom Kilduff of Meeker was involved in bringing the Vietnam Moving Wall memorial to Meeker in 1996, and he will guard the memorial during its Craig visit Thursday through Monday.

Wall therapy

Veterans remember as Vietnam Memorial replica comes to Craig

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Meeker Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 5843 will be guarding the wall the entire day on Aug. 11, allowing the Craig VFW post to preside over ceremonies. Kilduff will be present once again to guard the wall while honoring his fellow marines, and especially those from the Second Battalion, Fourth Marines that served with him in Vietnam.

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U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Tom Kilduff of Meeker was involved in bringing the Vietnam Moving Wall memorial to Meeker in 1996, and he will guard the memorial during its Craig visit Thursday through Monday.

— On the occasions that Tom Kilduff has visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., or the Moving Wall as it travels across the country, he always has found his way to East Panel number 53, Row 14.

The name reads Edward Mann, a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.

Killed in April 1968, Mann was the young man who accompanied Kilduff to Vietnam in 1967, and his best friend.

"The first time, it really impacted me," Kilduff said about the Moving Wall memorial. "It gets you every time you see it."

Marine Corps Sgt. Kilduff was a radioman in Vietnam, working mostly reconnaissance.

He points out the memorial lists names from the first fatalities of the war. There are names dating back to 1959.

"Most people don't realize we had people over there in 1959," he said.

The half-sized replica of the Vietnam Memorial scheduled to visit Craig Thursday through Monday at Loudy-Simpson Park lists the more than 58,000 names of veterans who lost their lives in the conflict.

Mann is on the wall because he quit caring about survival, Kilduff said. He stopped wearing his flak jacket and helmet at times.

Kilduff was part of the group that brought the Moving Wall to Meeker in 1996.

Growing up in the Northwest Colorado town, Kilduff returned home after the war fully disabled, with two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars.

"We brought the wall during Range Call on the Fourth of July," he said. "In Meeker that year, 11,500 signed the book, and they say one quarter of the visitors don't sign."

One of the groups that often don't sign are the Vietnam Veterans themselves, preferring to visit the wall in the early morning hours while the rest of the world sleeps.

Kilduff was one of the wall watchers during its visit to Meeker, and he met such a veteran.

The man arrived at 3 a.m. and just asked to be left alone. He made a toast at the wall, and left the bottle.

"People come all night long," Kilduff said. "Many Vietnam vets don't like crowds."

Visitors often leave items behind when they visit the wall.

Flowers.

Military medals.

Some write poems and leave them as a tribute to those who made the sacrifice.

One problem Kilduff has noticed with finding names on the wall is not knowing the full names of some people he served with.

"We knew everybody by nick-names," he said. "We didn't want to know their names (in case they didn't survive)."

Kilduff has found his peace in taking other veterans to old battlefields for visits. He has been back to Vietnam 15 times, escorting veterans to places they recall from their tours of duty.

The visits to Southeast Asia have helped Kilduff put the war behind him.

"They don't hate anyone in Vietnam," he said about the locals. "They have no resentment. Going back to Vietnam is good therapy."

Visiting the Moving Wall also is good therapy for Kilduff, and he will make the trip to Craig during the wall's visit.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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