Stories, healing, and reflection at The Moving Wall

Enumclaw paid host to The Moving Wall Vietnam War memorial last week.

No matter where you looked last weekend at The Moving Wall memorial in Enumclaw, you’d find someone with a story.

Daniel and his wife Marie Hertlein looked for the names of those who died in Daniel Hertlein’s units during the war: The 129th and 192nd assault helicopter companies.

One of those names was of a senior officer, killed in a crash, who was “probably one of the most popular guys in our unit,” Hertlein said.

“His death caused a lot of emotion in our unit,” Hertlein said. “We were really depressed because of that.”

Hertlein, 73, lives in Bonney Lake. He spent one year in Vietnam as a member of the Army, and first saw the wall at the main Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1978.

“I had no emotion to it until we got (to) approaching the wall, and it was like there was a barrier there I couldn’t cross,” Hertlein said of that visit. “The emotions just came out, and I didn’t know where it came from. I hadn’t felt like that since I left.”

Even visiting the wall Thursday, he said he still gets emotional and choked up.

“To see the memorial, with all these names on it, all these people who were wasted,” Hertlein said. “That was one of the terms used in Vietnam, when somebody died; they were ‘wasted.’ I think our Black brothers came up with that term.”

Daniel and Marie Hertlein look for a name on The Moving Wall.

Daniel and Marie Hertlein look for a name on The Moving Wall.

Hertlein’s story is one of thousands of those who visited The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, over its four-day tenure in Enumclaw. It stood in a grassy field between Sunrise and Southwood elementary schools, Mt. Rainier sweeping behind the names of 58,228 Americans who died during the Vietnam War.

Keith Mathews, a member of Enumclaw’s Post 1949 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, has spent the better part of the last decade making the wall’s visit to Enumclaw happen.

On Monday, Mathews said he felt “amazing, emotional” about the four-day event, which brought many veterans to the wall for the first time.

“The emotion met a lot of people,” Mathews said. “The volunteers out here, the people of Enumclaw, I can’t say enough about that. It was absolutely amazing.”

Mathews estimated that “a little over 38,000” people came out to the wall over the four days. The Moving Wall was packed up and back on the road Monday morning, heading next to Massachusetts, Mathews said.

A presentation Saturday honored the Enumclaw men who were killed in Vietnam: Donnie Biarum, Gerald Steven Hansen, Larry Joe Malatesta, Jefery Allan Schweikl, William Fred Soule, Michael Allen Hawk, Thomas Richard Okerlund, Harry Allen Petersen and Donald Freeman Baysinger. Members of their families were in attendance, too.

“They call it the healing wall for a purpose,” Mathews said. “It’s not just for the veterans. It’s for the family, too.”

Bob Valentine holds a rubbing of the names of two people he knew who died in the Vietnam War.

Bob Valentine holds a rubbing of the names of two people he knew who died in the Vietnam War.

Clint Bostwick grew up in Enumclaw and was drafted during the Vietnam War, joining the Army. He entered the country in December 1969 and came home 15 months later.

His dad was a commander at the VFW when he was growing up, so Bostwick got to know many of veterans of the two World Wars. It impressed on him how many people in the area had served.

“This community was made up of people like that,” Bostwick said. “Lots of people who were VFW members. It’s something to be proud of, and I am proud of.”

On Thursday, Bostwick was happy to see people other than veterans teaching, talking and learning about The Moving Wall and the names on it. He pointed out one woman talking to some of the children who were there.

“She took the time to come,” Bostwick said. “That’s important to me.”

Bringing the wall to Enumclaw was no easy task. Originally set to arrive in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its arrival a year. This weekend, a small army of volunteers helped ferry visitors, coordinate parking and handle other tasks during the wall’s visit.

For Alan Klein, who was one of those volunteers, the best part was the people he got to meet. As he shuttled visitors to the wall, Klein asked them to consider signing his journal — a keepsake to remember the day.

Klein, who lives in Enumclaw, served in the Air Force from 1966 through 1970. He was sent to Korea instead of Vietnam just after the U.S.S. Pueblo was captured by North Korean forces.

Klein has seen the memorial in Washington D.C., and said Thursday that he was waiting to walk over and see The Moving Wall for himself for the end of his shift.

“It’s going to be an emotional reaction, there’s no doubt about that,” Klein said. “I don’t know that anybody that I knew is on the wall, and thank goodness for that, because I’m sure it would be a lot more emotional. But I’m sure that somewhere across the line, I’ve run across somebody in my school days, whose name is on the wall.”

Bob Valentine points to a name on The Moving Wall in Enumclaw on Thursday.

Bob Valentine points to a name on The Moving Wall in Enumclaw on Thursday.

Nearby at the wall, checking his hand-written notes, Bob Valentine looked for the names of two older brothers of close friends he went to school with. He took a rubbing of the names on a piece of paper, a permanent token of their sacrifice.

Valentine wasn’t best friends with them at the time, but he didn’t need to be in order to care about their memory now.

“It gets emotional,” Valentine said. “I’ll take some pictures, and it’ll be another good memory.”

Originally from Connecticut, Valentine, now 68, moved out to Enumclaw in 1997 and is retired.

Valentine was drafted straight out of high school and served from 1971 through 1975 in the Navy. He served overseas in the Yom Kippur War, and has been part of a military honor guard which once presented a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Seeing the full wall in D.C. was an emotional experience, but even the scale of the half-sized moving wall still prompts reflection and awe.

“Look at how many names there are one just one panel,” Valentine said.

Then, after a moment, he added: “Unbelievable.”