Over the weekend, a 300-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be on display in a baseball field in Penndel, Bucks County. As part of the program, each of the more than 50,000 names on the memorial wall will be read aloud.
John Cashman, a retired firefighter from Mayfair, said it makes sense to bring it to a ball field — since many soldiers died at a very young age.
He saw the wall last time it was in town, at Father Judge High School in Northeast Philadelphia. Twenty-seven alumni from that school were killed in Vietnam.
“And I think if you served in Vietnam, you never forget it. It’s always in the back of your mind. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t been there,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t take a million dollars to do it again, but I wouldn’t take 10 million not to have done it.
“And, thankfully, I came through it OK.”
Frank Stopper also enlisted fresh out of George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia. “My brother, after he came home, he was the one who took me the recruiters,” he said. His brother, William Esterly, served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Both attended the first dedication of the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. They went for a second time when the statues were revealed.
Esterly died a few years ago.
“He went through a whole lot worse than whatever I had to do, but he’ll always be a hero in my eyes,” said his brother. “And I just wish he was around to see this today.”
David Christian, a decorated Army veteran who helped write legislation addressing Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress disorder, urged visitors to remember the bravery of those who died defending their country.
“I was 20 years old when I was a captain. I wasn’t old enough to vote, smoke or drink in the state of Pennsylvania. But just always remember that those that fight the wars today, didn’t start the wars,” he said. “So when you want to hold someone accountable, write your politicians, whomever they may be. Please don’t ever, ever let a generation take it out again on the veterans.”
A service for the 136 Bucks County residents killed or MIA in Vietnam will take place Saturday at 7:50 p.m. The memorial is open to the public through Sunday.