A traveling war tribute
Follow the story of the Vietnam War by visiting the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, otherwise known as the traveling Vietnam Wall.
That's what more than 6,000 people did in the four days the traveling tribute was set up at the Mower County Fairgrounds in Austin.
"It took about 2 1/2 hours to erect," said Scott Wiechmann, Olaf B. Damm VFW Post 1216 commander in Austin. Wiechmann was one of the key organizers of the four-day event that drew over 5,000 visitors plus 1,000 high school students on Friday.
Many emotions were expressed as family members searched for the names of their loved ones on the Vietnam traveling wall which represents about 85 percent of those names on the large wall in Washington, D.C.
A tent was set up to facilitate people in their search for their loved ones lost in the war which spanned 20 years from 1955 to 1975.
Three siblings, originally from Ellendale, who visited the wall took time to remember their brother, Dale Otto. Lance Corporal Otto, a member of the 3rd Marine Division was killed on May 14, 1967 at the DMZ, Quang Tri Province. He was 22.
"I've seen the wall about five or six times," remarked Larry Otto of Ellendale. He handed his sister Darlene Paulson (Lyle), Albert Lea, a piece of paper and placed it over a name on the wall and rubbed a graphite pencil over it as a memento of their loved ones.
This writer was a young reporter for the Albert Lea Tribune covering the moment Otto's parents were presented a Gold Cross in honor of their son. U.S. Marines visited the Otto home.
Brother Paul (Joey), Shakopee, also was present at the family gathering at the traveling Vietnam Wall in Austin. Paul served in the Air Force, Larry served in the U.S. Army from 1969-71 and their father, Lester served in the U.S. Navy.
"It's encouraging to see so many people here," said Emily Otto, Larry's wife.
Visiting a tent which featured video interviews with Vietnam veterans, the Otto siblings utilized a computer to trace a website called The Wall of Faces. This website lists Otto on 19E, 120 location on the wall.
The Vietnam Veterans Virtual Memorial Wall is dedicated to honoring, remembering and sharing the legacies of all those who died in the Vietnam War. Here you can go beyond the names on The Wall to see the faces, share the stories and read the remembrances posted by friends, neighbors, classmates and family members.
The website includes correspondence from fellow Vietnam veterans.
Ric Langley wrote: "I served with Dale many years ago in Vietnam as a Marine tank crewman. I remember Dale as always having a smile on his face and a positive outlook no matter how difficult things were.
"Serving in a small unit under those conditions over several months made everyone very close. We were truly a band of brothers. As with my other brothers that were lost I think of Dale often. Rest in peace brother Semper Fi."
The Otto siblings visited the wall Sunday, May 20 to observe special memorial observances which signaled the closure of the Vietnam Wall in Austin.
Otto said they were also paying tribute to his brother Dale's armored tank mate, Ron Knosky, 21, of New Jersey.
As the Otto siblings and others viewed the extensive wall display, the 34th Infantry Division Red Bull band performed patriotic music.
World War II veteran Duane Klingerman, 93, of Austin was one of the visitors who said the wall was "outstanding" and "breathtaking."
Klingerman said he visited the military memorials in Washington, D.C. as part of the Honor Flight.
Dodge Center resident Don Broskoff was part of a large contingency putting flags at half staff in honor of 31 Vietnam veterans from the Austin area. Broskoff served three tours of duty and was assigned to the Americal Division, first in infantry and then in special services.
Col. Stephen Schemenaur paid tribute to the many Minnesota killed in action in Vietnam. "Remember, these individuals made the ultimate sacrifice," he said.
The Vietnam War officially ended April 30, 1975, 43 years ago. Col. Schemenaur said more than 25,000 of those Americans killed in Vietnam were 20 or younger. Minnesota counted 1,972 deaths in Vietnam.