Honoring of their brother at the Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial turns out to hold much more meaning for pair of area sisters

Sisters share opportunity to honor their brother ... Pictured above, left to right, sisters Margaret Walter of Decorah and Chris Bolson of Lansing had their recent trip to Washington, D.C. to honor their fallen brother, PFC Lloyd C. Wohlford, Jr., at the Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial end up being much more meaningful when they had the honor of actually reading their brother's name from a list of fallen soldiers on the memorial. The two both wore buttons of their brother's photo (inset at bottom right). PFC Wohlford lost his life during the Vietnam War in 1967 at the age of 20. The Army Reserve Center recently closed in Decorah due to the occupying unit moving operations to Nevada was named in his honor. Submitted photo.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

Longtime Lansing resident Chris Bolson and her sister, Margaret Walter from Decorah, recently returned from Washington D.C. where they took part in  the 35th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial. Their brother, PFC Lloyd C. Wohlford, was killed in the Vietnam War in 1967 at the age of 20.
Every five years, a ceremony is held where the  58,318   names of the individuals who died in the Vietnam War are read. When Bolson and Walter learned of the ceremony this year, they decided it was a memorial they wanted to be a part of for their brother and they quickly made travel arrangements.
Volunteers read the names over a period of 19 hours from 5:00 a.m. until midnight over a period of four days. They  knew  the approximate time that their brother’s name would be read was at  12:32 p.m. and they wanted to be there to hear it.

After they arrived on the blustery November 7 day, they learned that the volunteer who was supposed to read the 30 names which included their brother’s name had not arrived. Nor had the volunteer who was supposed to read the 30 names before his name. Walter and Bolson quickly volunteered to replace the readers.

Bolson said, “We didn’t have time to get nervous about it. We just did it.  Volunteers have to read 30 names in two minutes. The names are read during the year they died in alphabetical order. Our instructions were to read a name and think the word 'pause' and then read the next name. It was just one of those 'God moments' where he put us in the right place at the right time. We walked up together and read our lists. Our brother’s name was the last name read for that year.  It was such an incredible honor to be able to read our brother’s name out loud at the memorial. It was a very emotional time for everyone.”

The sisters have visited the Wall before, but this visit was particularly special because of their participation in the memorial ceremony. Often special mementos are left at the wall by visitors. The sisters had brought poppies and flags with them to leave this year. Over 400,000 such tributes have been left at The Wall since its dedication in 1982. The National Park Service collects the items each day; some of those items may be viewed as part of the virtual collection  at www.vvmf.org/items.

There were 853  individuals from Iowa who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. The Army Reserve Center in Decorah, which recently closed because the unit was moved to Nevada, was named after Wohlford in 1978. Wohlford  was the only Vietnam veteran from Winneshiek County to be awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a "V" for valor in combat for his heroism in connection against a hostile force. Wolhford had only been in Vietnam for two months when he was killed.

Bolson said that it was a very emotional moment. Looking back at that conflict, Bolson said it was difficult to see people protesting the war because “my brother gave his life. My brother never got a chance to vote or to have a drink. He was too young for that, but he could be drafted and sent to Vietnam.”

According to various search mechanisms on several websites dedicated to the Vietnam Veterans Wall Memorial, four names of veterans from Allamakee County communities are also listed on the Wall. Those searches and listings are based on a veterans' Home of Record, so there may very well be other veterans with Allamakee County ties as well with different Homes of Record listed. According to those search listings, the four listed veterans with Home of Record listings in Allamakee County include Alan Ray Bresnahan of Dorchester, Arlyn Loranz Lampert of New Albin, Mark Steven Dreier of Postville and James Francis Riley of Waukon.

The Wall was proposed by a Vietnam veteran, Jann Scruggs, who wanted to make sure that the names of all those who died were remembered. He joined forces with others and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund began in 1979. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation which devoted two acres of land on the Mall. The Wall was built entirely with private funds.

A national competition was held for the design of the wall. Out of the 1,421 design entries, the design submitted by Maya Ying Lin, a 21-year-old American of Chinese descent, was chosen. The Wall is 500 feet in length and stands slightly more than 10 feet tall at its highest point. It is made of black granite and is comprised of 140 panels.

In 1984, the Three Servicemen statue, designed by Frederick Hart, was added to the memorial site. In 1993, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial statue, designed by Glenna Goodacre, was dedicated. The “In Memory” plaque - honoring those who served in Vietnam and later died as a result of their service, was dedicated in 2004.

The Wall attracts over five million visitors each year. In addition, a half-scale model of The Wall travels to several communities each year. Funds are also being raised for an educational center at the site. For more information about The  Wall or the various programs associated with The Wall, visit www.vvmf.org.

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