ROME CITY — The Moving Wall hits close to home for Rep. David Abbott.
At the Vietnam Wall replica’s opening ceremony in Kelly Park, Abbott was one who addressed the crowd gathered in front of the wall’s 5,800 names.
In his address, he noted he never served in the military, but much of his family did, including two of his sons.
“I have always regretted not serving,” Abbott said.
One of his sons, Nicholas, wanted to serve after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
He served in the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom. When he was serving, a captain said he should apply for a position at West Point, which he started working toward.
However, when the troop surge began in 2007, Abbott’s son felt called back to war.
“About three weeks later, I got a phone call at work,” Abbott said. “It’s a call everybody hates to get. It was my daughter crying on the phone. Two officers were at our back door. They wouldn’t tell her why they were there. I came home. My wife came home.”
The officers told his family that Nicholas’ convoy had been ambushed, and during a maneuver, his Humvee had backed over a bomb and exploded.
“We found out that Nicholas had been killed,” Abbott said through tears. “He was killed instantly, thank God.”
Though a tragedy, Abbott said he and his family like to talk about Nicholas, since it keeps the memory of him alive.
Honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice was dear to Abbott at the ceremony.
“When you walk along here and you look at a name, whether it’s someone you know, or someone you don’t know, there’s a story,” Abbott said. “Each one of those people are heroes, and the Vietnam vets deserve all the honor and respect we can give them.”
State Sen. Sue Glick also spoke, pointing out that those who served were drafted, and now, some of their names appear on the Moving Wall.
“They didn’t marry their sweethearts, or if they did, they didn’t have a chance to raise those families or those children, some of whom were left behind and some of whom were never conceived,” Glick said.
Randy Page coordinated and fundraised for the Wall to come to Rome City, and he was honored with the full lawn of people who came to read the names and give thanks.
“Something like this, where there’s so many patriots here to honor those on the wall, it’s a humbling experience,” Page said.
Hal Schafer, a Vietnam veteran and commander, visited the wall in his Air Force uniform. He went to war in 1963 and served for 30 years.
Though he didn’t know anyone on the wall since his men came home safely, he recognized the importance of Vietnam veterans getting the thanks they deserve, especially after the cold shoulder they received when coming home after the war.
“A lot of people wouldn’t associate with them,” Schafer said.
A Rome City native, Schafer said he would spend his 30-day break he was allotted while in the military on Sylvan Lake, and still lives there today.
He and his wife Kandi Schafer urged people to come see the Moving Wall this weekend.
“I hope there’s a good turnout and people bring their kids and tell them why it’s here,” Kandi said.
The Moving Wall is available for viewing 24 hours a day until Aug. 12.