AUGUSTA, Kan. (KSNW) – Visiting Washington, D.C. and seeing the war memorials is an emotional experience for many veterans. The Kansas Honor Flight has taken thousands of veterans on the trip for free.
For veterans like Tom DeMayo, a trip to the Vietnam Memorial Wall is an experience like no other. DeMayo, a Vietnam veteran, said it’s kind of a closure for them when they go to the wall when they see the names of fellow comrades.
DeMayo was drafted into the war at 18. While he made it home, not all his comrades did.
“There was 22 sailors on my ship killed October 1, 1972,” DeMayo said. “To see their names. I don’t know it’s hard to describe, but again like I said it was closure.”
DeMayo and fellow Kansas Honor Flight volunteer Dan Larson decided to make a replica of the wall.
“These are 627 Kansas veterans who sacrificed their lives for our freedom,” DeMayo said as he pointed to the two replica panels.
Unlike the memorial in Washington, D.C., these names are in alphabetical order.
“This was just a way for the Kansas Honor Flight to honor those veterans who can never take a flight with us,” DeMayo said.
This project was more than a month in the making. DeMayo says they chose the Vietnam Memorial because many of those veterans did not get the welcome home they deserved.
“We had veterans that were spit on and cussed at, and the veterans that came back were even told not to wear their uniforms when they left the base and stuff when they first got back because they would be attacked by people,” DeMayo said.
While the replica can give comfort to veterans who see it, it also honors those who gave it all.
“They made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom because they loved this country,” DeMayo said.
The wall replica will be part of Saturday morning’s 10 a.m. Independence Day parade in Hutchinson.
DeMayo says they plan to make updates to the memorial and showcase it at future events.
To learn more about the Kansas Honor Flight, click here.