SOBERING  Students from Livingston Manor Central School view the thousands of names that cover the wall of the traveling version of the Washington, DC, Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial was erected in Rock Hill and later traveled to Monticello. Luca Larizzati photo

SOBERING Students from Livingston Manor Central School view the thousands of names that cover the wall of the traveling version of the Washington, DC, Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial was erected in Rock Hill and later traveled to Monticello. Luca Larizzati photo

Students visit traveling Vietnam memorial

DC monument replica brought to Sullivan

 By Luca Larizzati & Tyler Roberts | Manor Ink | October 2019

Rock Hill, NY – On Thursday, Sept. 12, Livingston Manor’s middle schoolers and fifth and sixth graders went on a field trip to the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial that was visiting Rock Hill.

The traveling memorial is made out of aluminum, unlike the one in Washington, DC, which is constructed of granite. It’s also smaller in size, but is otherwise a faithful recreation of the original. Students looked at all the names on the memorial wall, and on the field surrounding it was a sign listing the causes of death for the 52,822 brave soldiers who lost their lives. Many families lost a father, brother, uncle or cousin, and that made the students realize how lucky they are to have a home and family. It was truly shocking to see what people gave up.

Our community contributed funds for the traveling exhibit through a fundraiser held at Livingston Manor’s Peck’s Market. Manager Evan Irwin, who has been employed at the store for 18 years, said, “When doing the fundraiser, they had people donate and put a name on a card that was hung up in the front breeze way. People were asked when coming through the line if they would like to donate.” As a result, Peck’s raised about $1,200 for the memorial.

The Vietnam conflict started in 1955 when the country was a French colony, and lasted until 1977 after the United States became involved. In the war, American soldiers fought against the Viet Cong from North Vietnam and their allies in South Vietnam.

The Vietnam war was the sixth and last American war to draft soldiers. Many young men fled to Canada in fear of being drafted, and these men were called “draft dodgers.” Between 1963 and 1974, over 2.2 million young men were drafted, and many of them believed the draft was like a death sentence. They also felt they were being sent to fight for a cause they did not believe in. There were many protests as a result, and a majority of them took place on college campuses in an effort to raise awareness that the United States should not be involved.

At the memorial site, one of the war’s veterans gave the students a presentation on the gear soldiers used. He also described some of their experiences. He said soldiers got only two hot meals a year – one at Thanksgiving and another at Christmas. They also were given 20-year-old MREs, or “meals ready to eat.” While on the battlefield, soldiers carried over 80 pounds of equipment, including things like armor, flares and provisions. Some even carried “the hog,” an M80 machine gun. This gun was like a bulls eye for the person carrying it, as it was a main target for the enemy.

Going to this memorial was truly a humbling experience. It was a very sobering experience to see the names of these young men who died to keep our country free, and it was enlightening to learn about the sacrifices they made for us.

As the memorial travels, it provides a life-changing experience for people all across the country, and I am glad the LMCS middle schoolers plus the fifth and sixth graders got to have that experience.