05/16/10 — Monumental moments

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Monumental moments

By Michael Betts
Published in News on May 16, 2010 1:50 AM
Last update on: October 7, 2010 9:28 AM

News-Argus Video Report

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Veterans walk past the Korean War Memorial Wall as they tour the National Mall monuments. The Goldsboro Exchange Club sponsored a bus to take veterans to see the monuments that honor their service.

Don Exum's eyes slowly scan the 58,261 names of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, his 62-year-old frame shifting its weight onto his brown cane as he searches for one name --  James E. Hopkins.

Exum went on the Goldsboro Exchange Club Veterans Trip to Washington, D.C., to see his lost high school classmate's name etched upon the wall. He was one of the 30 veterans who took the daylong bus trip to visit the Vietnam War, Korean War, and Vietnam    War Memorial Monuments on the National Mall.

All five of this country's past major wars had a veteran on board, along with members of the Goldsboro Exchange Club, whose main mission is to prevent child abuse. Veterans from conflicts in Panama, Iraq and other military operations also took part in the trip.

As the miles rolled by, a brotherhood formed between these men despite their age. Despite the fact that Travis Sign, who lost his arm in Iraq, has no monument to his fight. They are all veterans who went to honor their brothers in service.

John Busse rode on the bus with 10 other World War II veterans, staring out the window as the North Carolina countryside rolled by.  The generation who fought in World War II, the "greatest generation," and America are losing their living history every day. No longer young men, the veterans are now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Col. Raymond Kleber served in the Air Force during three wars, starting his service as a pilot at 17 years old and proudly serving his country for the next 32 years. In all he flew 302 combat missions in Vietnam and commanding the 612th Fighter Squad during the Tet Offensive without losing any pilots.     

The Korean War has become known as "The Forgotten War." But the war has not been forgotten by the men who fought in it, including Jack Wallace. A talented baseball player in his youth, he put his ball diamond dreams on hold to answer the call of duty. Wallace earned the Silver Star for his service to his country. A photo of Wallace taken after the Silver Star was pinned on his chest is now etched into the wall, calling out to those who pass it and ones like it etched on the wall so that people do not forget the 36,516 Americans who died on the Korean peninsula.