Motorcade escorts Moving Wall to Craig
Craig — E.J. Bunk could hear the radio, could hear his truck engine and then could hear the score of motorcycles riding down Victory Way on Wednesday.
He couldn’t hear the 1,200 artillery shells that beat down on his squad in 1967 in Con Tien, Vietnam.
Until just recently, he couldn’t remember the name of the dying soldier he helped carry to cover there.
So Bunk turned his truck around and followed the procession of military veterans riding motorcycles, escorting the Moving Wall to Loudy-Simpson Park.
The Moving Wall is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It tours the country each year from April to November.
It is a tradition for groups of veterans to ride with the memorial between cities.
Some of the 20 military veterans escorting the memorial through Craig were more comfortable sharing stories with other veterans than celebrating its coming.
“I’m a little nervous about it to tell you the truth,” said Bill Morgan, who served in the Army for 12 years, and in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. “I had some real misgivings about it coming here, but I think it’s a good thing. Probably I’ll look for some people, but there’s a lot of names I don’t want to remember.”
Morgan was part of the motorcade that led the Moving Wall through Craig.
Afterward, many veterans stayed at Loudy-Simpson Park for a few minutes to talk and make plans for the afternoon.
Morgan started talking with Bunk and the two men shared stories about the war and talked about what the memorial meant.
Morgan has never seen the memorial before.
Bunk has seen the memorial three times, first in Meeker, then the original memorial in Washington, D.C. and then the Moving Wall again in Rifle.
“The first time in Meeker, it didn’t really have any effect,” Bunk said. “Since then, it has eaten my lunch. You start to know more than you want to. It hurts too much. It’s more difficult than most men want to express. It embarrassed me. It caught me off-guard real bad.”
It can be hard to remember names of people they knew that died overseas, veterans said. Oftentimes, new incoming soldiers were put through the ringer by their squad mates, simply because of the pain of getting to know someone that might be killed.
“Over there, you only stayed close enough to someone to save them or have them save you,” Bunk said. “But when you see the wall, you can’t be prepared.”
Though Bunk has been three times, there is one name he has not seen before.
He had looked through the list of casualties for September 1967 at Con Tien, also called the Hill of Angels.
Though he couldn’t forget the 1,200 rounds of incoming artillery per day, he couldn’t recall the name of the boy his Marine squad leader, another soldier and he carried together after he had been fatally shot.
But he recently met up with his squad leader for the first time since they were together in the war in 1968. Together, they helped each other remember.
“I have never seen his name on the wall,” Bunk said. “This time I get to see Chuck Goff.”
Despite the horrors connecting them, Morgan and Bunk laughed about their pasts, too.
“We were too young to know any better,” Bunk said. “Hell, we were getting $100 a month and all the free food we could eat. Well, when there was food.”
They reminisced about waiting for the helicopters to bring in beer – a disgusting Carling Black Label, they said.
And then just as quickly talked about how, when they needed water and food, they got ammunition instead.
“When I see it for the first time, I don’t expect it to get any easier,” Morgan said.
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