Traveling memorial wall stirs emotions in Vietnam War veteran

Traveling memorial wall stirs emotions in Vietnam War veteran.

A week ago, Vietnam War veteran Pat Porter of Long Prairie visited the Traveling Vietnam Wall that was set up at the Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre, July 13-17.
“It gives veterans and other people a chance to honor those who didn’t come home and for some reason, can’t visit the wall in D.C.,” said Chris Senger, veteran and project manager at the Eagle’s Healing Nest.

The wall is a three-fifths scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., is 6-feet high at the center and stretches nearly 300 feet from one end to the other. It serves as a reminder of the great sacrifice service men and women made during the war — those who lost their lives, went missing in action or were prisoners of war and left behind in Southeast Asia. Over 58,000 names are listed on the wall.

Porter said while it is nice to connect with fellow veterans, visiting the wall was also a very emotional experience for him. It brought back memories of his own time of serving in the Vietnam War and of all his friends who didn’t come home.
Porter served with the U.S. Navy Seabees, a construction battalion, from August 1966 to October 1967. The Seabee motto was, “Can Do.”
“In the harbor, we built deepwater piers to bring ships in to unload them and built our own base camps, as well” he said.
Porter said at first they stayed in old French barracks from World War II that were abandoned at the base of Monkey Mountain.
“There were monkeys everywhere. Those things are worse than raccoons. They got into everything,” he said.

Porter said sometimes that meant having to deal with monkeys jumping onto equipment, moving levelers and causing a crash of some sort from time to time.
“Then one guy got the idea to start shooting them, but that didn’t stop them. They go crazy. If one of them gets shot, they make a hellacious, blood-curling scream and come after you, if you don’t kill it right away,” he said.
Working in the Seabees, Porter said they also built roads and airstrips. Sometimes the airstrips were struck by rockets.
“I guess they figured that if they blew enough holes in the airfield, we wouldn’t get any plans to take off. But we could patch up holes in an airstrip and have the planes ready to takeoff in 45 minutes,” he said.

Sometimes it meant repairing an airstrip under fire. It was during one of those attacks that Porter was grazed in the back of his head by a bullet, he said.
“Then, a sniper got me when I was driving my truck. It went through my helmet liner and helmet. Even though it never drew blood, it swelled up so badly. I also couldn’t hear. My ears were just ringing,” he said. “The bullet also just missed my shotgun rider when it went out the side of the truck.”
Porter said it took about three weeks before the headache disappeared.
“I had to slow down a little bit working, because the equilibrium was all messed up,” he said. “It’s hard to think when you have a constant, buzzing headache.
Porter said he was also nearly killed on two other occasions when he was about to hit a booby trap.

“They had booby traps all over that place. If it wouldn’t have been for two other guys warning me, I would have lost my left arm and leg in one and the other one, who knows if I would’ve even been alive,” he said.
The toll of war hits close to home, as well. Porter’s youngest brother, Greg, was killed during the Vietnam War.
Another brother, Dennis, who was a helicopter pilot and was doing medical evacuations was injured in the war.
His oldest brother, Charles III, was shot in the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba, he said.
“They shot him and he fell out of the basket they used for spotting on the ship and landed below on his back. Even though he lived, he was messed up for life after that,” Porter said.

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