Video: A moving experience at traveling Vietnam memorial
It was never Bob Burke's goal to get the Vietnam Moving Wall to come to Middleboro.
Burke, who is the chairman of the Cranberry Country Vietnam Moving Wall Committee and a Vietnam-era veteran, had the goal in mind of helping at least one veteran living in Cranberry Country find closure.
"It is very important to me that the people here that have emotional issues about the war, whether it is from injuries or from friends that they've lost, that they be healed," said Burke.
It didn't take long for the wall, etched with more than 58,000 names, to start the healing process.
Shortly after the May 29 opening ceremony, Burke and more than 25 other members of the committee came together at the wall for a special ceremony.
During the gathering, Burke again stated his goal of helping at least one veteran find closure.
It was just then a man, three people down from Burke, turned and looked at him.
"You've accomplished your goal," the man said.
But Burke wasn't the only one helping veterans find healing.
Vietnam veteran Paul Dwyer, of Warwick, R.I., was one of more than 400 volunteers who came to help during the event.
Since the wall was open all day and all night during the time it was assembled on Battis Field in Middleboro, volunteers were needed at all hours to help visitors find the names they were in search of.
Dwyer described how Vietnam veterans would come down in the early morning hours and just sit in front of the wall.
"They have to come down by themselves," Dwyer said.
After the veterans approached the wall, Dwyer walked over and embraced them, whispering a simple, comforting message in their ear.
"Welcome home," Dwyer would say, before letting the veterans know that he was available anytime if they needed to talk.
One man on the receiving end of Dwyer's embrace was Middleboro's Mark Lydon.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Lydon, a South Boston native, joined the Army at 17.
But before being sent to Vietnam a short time later, Lydon crossed paths with a fellow soldier named "Campbell" during basic training.
After finishing their training, the two were deployed to different areas of war-torn Vietnam, yet only one came home alive.
It was Campbell's name, etched into the wall like so many others, that Lydon repeatedly ran his fingers over as he bowed his head.
"I cry when I see this, all these names," Lydon said as he glared in the wall's direction.
Lydon has visited the wall every day that it has been in Middleboro, relighting a candle at the base of the panel where his friend's name is etched.
But as he lit a white candle during Saturday night's candlelight vigil at the wall, Lydon saw the lives of the dead carried on in the flame adorning the tip of his candle.
"I knew it would light," Lydon said as he cradled the flame from the persistent wind.
"That's their life, even though they are not with us anymore they are still alive, they're still alive," Lydon repeated as he rejoined the rest of the group.
The wall will remain open to visitors until noon on June 2 at Battis Field in Middleboro. The wall will then be disassembled and loaded onto a truck headed for its next destination of Somers Point, N.J.
Mike Cohea can be reached at 508-967-3525 or by email at email@example.com