CANYONVILLE—When Vietnam veteran Lonnie Shields of Winston surveyed the Oregon Memorial Traveling Wall outside Seven Feathers Casino Resort Wednesday, he saw the name of a classmate he’d attended Roseburg High School with in 1965.
When his wife Christine Shields surveyed the wall, she felt sorrow.
“The wall is very sad, very, very sad. It’s so many young men, so many,” Christine Shields said.
There are 957 names on the wall, all Oregon veterans who died, 708 in the Vietnam War and the rest in later military actions. The wall is designed to be similar to the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Washington, D.C., and travels around the state. It will be at Seven Feathers for the Fourth of July and July 5.
Lonnie Shields served in the Air Force and flew out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in 1968 and 1969 on bombing missions. He was in his early 20s.
“The Lord was with Lonnie, ‘cause he was to go out on a mission in Vietnam but another guy bumped him off, had more seniority than he did,” Christine Shields said.
Lonnie didn’t get on that plane. It crashed at the end of the runway and killed everyone on board.
“There was some religious intervention,” Lonnie Shields said.
“I just thank the good Lord every day that he’s safe,” Christine Shields said.
Lonnie Shields was one of a group of Vietnam veterans who helped bring the wall to Seven Feathers, and answered questions for people who stopped to view it.
Another Vietnam veteran Steve Rolston, said he served in the Army from 1967 to 1969 and was in Vietnam all of 1968. He grew up in Tillamook and he initially thought no one from his hometown would be on the wall.
“I turned around and all of a sudden, this name jumped off the board at me,” he said. It was a kid he’d gone to school with that was two years younger than him.
Vietnam veteran Terry Weakley grew up in Riddle and said there are three men on the wall from that small town. He went to school with one of them. He said there are 17 from Roseburg.
Weakley served in the Army in 1969 and all of 1970, and said helping others experience the wall helps him feel better too.
“It’s probably the best PTSD treatment you can get,” he said.
Weakley said sometimes they do rubbings to give family members a copy of their lost loved one’s name on the wall.
“It’s an honor to be here and do it. It is very emotional some of the time. ...I can get teary eyed,” he said.
Vietnam Veterans of America Umpqua Valley Chapter 805 President Frank Escalante said his father was in the Air Force when he was growing up, so he wasn’t from Oregon and doesn’t have any friends on the wall. He said the wall has been well received by Oregonians, though.
“A lot of ‘em know people on the wall, and they haven’t been able to go back to D.C. and see the big wall, but they can come here,” he said.