On Sunday, Anchorage-area residents took their final opportunity to visit what is officially called the "Moving Vietnam Memorial".
The half-scale Vietnam Wall has gotten a steady stream of visitors since last Monday, when it made an unscheduled stop in Anchorage. It's tour of the country had been altered just 5 weeks ago and local veterans' groups made certain -- when they learned it had become unexpectedly available -- that it made an encore stop here.
Ever since it arrived on the Park Strip, it's drawn a steady stream of visitors. And those who turned out seemed to find the experience quite moving.
It's hard to visualize what 58-thousand deaths means. But the effect, when you see that, in effect, is precisely what "The Wall" helps you do. The fact that just the writing those names required over 240 feet of space is extremely powerful. "It really brings to light that 58,000" said Dan Canavan, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Others felt pretty much the same.
"To think of all the soldiers that were on here," said Stacey Allen -- who lost a Great Uncle in Vietnam. "They fought for us and lost their lives, and to think ow young they were."
For Jim Taylor, a Vietnam-Era Veteran of the Air Force, the sight of the 58,000 names was also overwhelming. He arrived to pay his respects and to put his hand on 3 or 4 of the names. "We called him "Lucky", said Taylor -- his voice cracking a bit -- as he gently touched the name of Roy D. Hurlbert, a former high school classmate of his. "He was killed in Khe Sanh." Taylor added. "3 years after he graduated from high school."
The battle of Khe Sanh was a major fight between the U.S. and North Vietnamese that lasted for months in early 1968. It was a battle that cost 205 American lives -- one of those belonging to Roy Hurlbert, Jim Taylor's friend. America won the Battle of Khe Sanh -- but afterwards we destroyed the base that 205 Americans had died defending. Then we simply walked away from it! For many, Khe Sanh symbolized the wastefulness and constantly-shifting objectives of the Vietnam War.
Also at the wall, someone who had no living memory of Vietnam: 12-year-old Lauren Allen of Anchorage. She was busy making a stencil of one of the names on the wall, that of the Jerry Standridge.
"Who was he," a reporter asked.
"He's my Great, Great-Uncle," Lauren said.
"Whom you never met?"
"Yeah," she said.
That's part of the power of the wall. It connects generations that have no personal knowledge of Vietnam.
It is hard to say precisely when the Vietnam War actually began for America. The wall considers the first American deaths to be those of Major Dale Buis and Master Sergeant Chester Ovnand who were killed in a guerilla attack in Bienhoa in 1959.
The wall considers the last American death to be that of Richard Vende Geer, who died in a helicopter crash during the evacuation of Saigon in April of 1975.
And in between those 3 names, there are 58,192 others. The number of names on the wall is still growing -- as confirmation of remains of those initially as "Missing-in-Action" slowly alters their status to "Killed-in-Action."
Among the dead are 8 women -- nearly all of them young and all of them nurses.
58 Alaskans died in Vietnam. That's one-tenth of 1 percent of the total number of deaths on the wall.
It is worth remembering, as "The Wall" travels around the country (it is actually one of two travelling walls) that America still has combat troops in Afghanistan. In roughly a decade of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has lost 6500 men and women. It's also seen 48,000 wounded.
In fact, the number of wounded is 80% as high as the number of dead in Vietnam -- and their names would fill a space almost as large as the space on that wall.
So 37 years after America left Vietnam, another generation is bearing the scars of war.
The wall's next stop is in Oregon.