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Soda Springs welcomes Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall

SODA SPRINGS, Idaho (KIFI) - It's a windy Wednesday in Soda Springs where it took more than six months of work and efforts from the Soda Springs Rotary Club and Veterans of Foreign War working together with local businesses and others to bring the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall wall to the small town.

The mood in the area is one of solemn remembrance and quiet as many come to search for the names of a friend they lost in the war or their family members who served during the war.

For Bud Barthlome, the wall allows him to remember some of his hard memories of losing a dear friend.

"I was the last guy to talk to him on the radio with which he was coming back off a mission. I was going out, and when I got back to my base at night, he hadn't showed up," Barthlome said. "So I'm looking for him, and we can never find the airplane or the wreckage or anything."

Barthlome says for him seeing the wall brings back those hard memories from the war itself.

"We lost a couple of people from Grace that I knew and one from Soda that I knew," Barthlome said. "The different times they was killed, it was hard to take. I've been back to the wall in Washington, D.C., and we're taking some of the names off there and brought back the people that's in this area."

He says while he and many of his colleagues weren't welcomed back originally, it's nice to have the wall close to home as a way to honor him and the friends he's lost.

"Well, I'm glad that people remember us. Back when we came back, a lot of us, they didn't like us back then in the seventies. And middle sixties and seventies that people got over it. And now we're kind of honored and they let us do the wall like this."

Something that fellow war vet and member of the Veterans of Foreign War post in Soda Springs Ralph "Duff" Woolsey echoed.

"I think when we first got home, they they didn't like us very well. That was clear back then. But times has changed. Our people now are our especially in all our states, now are taking care of the Vietnam veterans. And it just feels better. You know, it feels good to have people care about what we've done. And it wasn't easy, believe me," Woolsey said.

He says he too looks at the wall and remembers the friends he met in the service, but it can be really hard on him.

"I've got several guys on this, but I just can't watch them. I got here, and that's where I need it."

After a brief opening ceremony, members of the rotary club said the wall is going to be in Soda Springs for the next four days. Rotary Club member Ethan Waltermire says now the wall is here, the members of the club are excited about day one's turn out.

"It feels great. I mean, just this morning, seeing people here and we expected a small turnout opening ceremonies being that it's noon on a Wednesday. But to see the crowd that was generated is great. You know, so the support from the community that we've seen through Facebook, through word of mouth has been fantastic. So I think that over the next four days, we're going to just see a lot of people here."

He says for himself seeing the wall is, "very time I see it, it's just I'm in awe of of the design of what it means of all the names. And it's it's very humbling and, you know, to look at the other tributes as well, you know, everything and different conflicts that we've had since Vietnam, including Iraq, Afghanistan, you know, the Cole bombing, et cetera," Waltermire said. "That over here, it really kind of brings home to me the sacrifices that our armed forces have made for our country. And that's what I take away from it. And to see the names is very, very humbling. And I'm very thankful for every one of those people so it's great to have it here."

Representatives of the wall shared Wednesday that after the wall departs on May 15, it is off to Hiawassee, Georgia where it will continue to honor those who served and lost their lives in Vietnam.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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