By Roch Thornton
Associated Press Writer
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Daniel F. Gallagher, John J. Arteaga, John E. Sievers, Greg Keller.
Those are four of the 57,939 names carved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. They were the names I looked for first.
Gallagher, Arteaga, Sievers and Keller were members of my Marine company near Da Nang in 1970. I knew many who were killed in Vietnam but those four are the ones I knew best and have never forgotten.
I found that certain names were also special to other survivors, no matter how many of the dead and missing they knew.
I went to Washington, D.C., with the Wyoming delegation to the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Most of us, and many other veterans, soon stopped calling it by its full name.
By unspoken agreement it became “the Wall” among us, but no matter what it was called its impact was breathtaking.
The Wall can’t be seen from a distance because it is set into the ground. I first saw it from the south as I walked towards it from the Reflecting Pool.
The first evidence I saw of the Wall was a man about my age who walked by me with tears on his face. Then I saw it through the trees.
From about 50 yards the Wall is a shallow ‘V’ of 140 polished black granite panels. The ends of the arms begin at ground level and the panels get higher as the Wall goes deeper into the ground.
From the edge of the trees the Wall looks as if it is covered with frost. Up close the frost becomes line after line of names.
Volunteer guides were stationed at the Wall with directories the size of large telephone books listing each name in alphabetical order plus the panel and line the name was on.
A guide looked up my four names. I found Dan Gallagher first, on the 52nd line of the seventh panel in the western arm. He was a medical student from Blanchardville, Wis., who liked to help during sick call for the Vietnamese children.
John Arteaga’s name was on the line above, since he and Gallagher were killed by the same rocket on Sept. 10, 1970. He was from Milwaukee and gave me his spare pair of socks the day before he died.
John Sievers was killed by gunfire on July 6, 1970, and he was on the 125th line of the ninth panel in the western arm. He was from Gunnison, Colo., and we used to talk about skiing Crested Butte while standing the long night watches together.
Greg Keller was from Whittier, Calif., and I found him on line 28 of the eighth western panel. The grenade blast that killed him on July 18, 1970, left me untouched.
I looked for other names but I returned again and again to the first four. I touched the letters of each name and left a rose and a small American flag at the base of each panel.
Finally, tears filled my eyes and I walked blindly away from the Wall.
Posted on Feb. 23, 1999