Vietnam Memorial Wall Comes to Casper
Harold Lee Gibson from Greybull went to the other side of the world for the war. Casper son Charles Wayne Reberg went too.
They may have never met or crossed paths, but they're both Wyomingites.
And their names are on the wall.
More than 58,000 Americans died in the jungles of Vietnam. Thousands more were wounded.
Those who made it back arrived home to little fanfare. There were no ticker-tape parades.
Eric A. Distad was one of those veterans.
He returned home after serving a tour with the 7th Calvary Regiment 50 years ago this month. When he traveled back, he was issued a brand new U.S. Army service uniform.
As soon as he walked in his parents' home, he took his uniform off and stuffed it in a duffle bag.
He wouldn't see the uniform for another decade.
Distad felt survivor's guilt. He fretted over leaving his buddies back in the jungle.
He and his fellow Vietnam veterans kept their heads down. They didn't want to draw attention to the fact that they were veterans. There were no handshakes and thank-yous for their service.
"It wasn't until 1982 or so when it became clear that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was going to be a reality," Distad said Thursday.
Known as "The Wall," the Washington, D.C. memorial has the names of each American service member killed in the Vietnam War. A traveling version of The Wall is at Casper College through Sunday. The Casper College Veterans Club organized the event.
For Distad, The Wall is much more than a memorial.
"We still see the faces and we feel the pain of their deaths," Distad said. "Until we too pass, we will remain haunted by The Wall.
"They were our comrades, our friends, our classmates."
The memorial also features American flags representing each Wyomingite killed in the war. They were Wyomingites like Gibson and Reberg who put on the uniform, went to some place on the other side of the world and didn't come back alive.