Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall rolling into Faribault August 29, 2016

AS A TEENAGER OF THE EARLY 1970s, the Vietnam War proved part of my life in the fringe sort of way war does when you’re an emerging adult.

Along with my too short hot pants ensemble and my shiny go-go boots, I sported a POW bracelet, the shiny medal banding my wrist with the name of an American soldier held captive by the Viet Cong. I wish I remembered his name or even what happened to that bracelet. It may be stashed away in a cardboard box in a closet. To even write that seems dishonorable. How could I not give more respect to a prisoner of war who deserved my gratitude?

This week I will have a local opportunity to honor those who died in the Vietnam War, the war from which veterans arrived home without a nation’s welcome. Protests prevailed. I remember.

traveling wall logo


Thankfully attitudes have changed. This Wednesday, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall rolls into Faribault for a six-day stay at the Rice County Fairgrounds. I am grateful to the individuals, businesses and organizations—like the Faribault Elks, multiple American Legion Posts, the local VFW Post and the Marine Corps League—that worked hard to bring this 80 percent scale version of the wall here to southeastern Minnesota.

Stock image courtesy of the Traveling Wall Faribualt 2016.

Stock image courtesy of the Traveling Wall Faribualt 2016.

Perhaps my POW’s name is imprinted on that wall, among the 58,282 Americans who died in this war. I will search for one name, that of Benjamin Franklin Danielson whose fighter jet was shot down over Laos in 1969. I remember the media coverage when this Minnesota soldier’s remains were returned to his native Kenyon in 2007, several years after bone fragments were found to match his DNA. I expect many individuals will be looking for names of loved ones or classmates or others on this 360-foot long by eight foot high replica wall.

Stock image courtesy of Traveling Wall Faribault 2016.

Stock image courtesy of Traveling Wall Faribault 2016.

But before the temporary memorial goes up on the north side of Faribault, it will arrive in my community of 23,000 Wednesday afternoon under escort by law enforcement, fire department personnel, bikers and others in private vehicles. Organizers emphasize that this is not a parade but rather a solemn procession. Those living aside the route from Owatonna along County Road 45 to Medford and then into Faribault are encouraged to line the roadway with American flags and to show their support.

Between two military uniforms, I shot this view of a 48-star American flag.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I live along the processional route. Those who know me personally and would like to join me in my front yard are welcome to do so. Dress in patriotic attire and bring American flags and patriotic items plus a lawn chair. I expect the entourage to pass my home around 3:20 – 3:30 p.m.

At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, the traveling wall debuts with a grand opening ceremony. The memorial remains open 24/7 until the closing ceremony at 1 p.m. on Labor Day. What a great opportunity this will be for us, as a community, as a county, as Minnesotans, as Americans, to honor those like Benjamin Danielson and my unidentified POW. Decades after I clamped that POW bracelet around my wrist, I understand the significance of this opportunity.

FYI: Many related events are planned in conjunction with the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall exhibit in Faribault. Click here to learn details. And click here to learn about the original memorial wall in Washington, DC.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall rolling into Faribault”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    This is one time I wish I was still in Iowa because I would make the trek to Faribault to sit in a lawn chair awaiting the processional route and stand proudly as it passes by. What a privilege to have this in your hometown and what a wonderful tribute to those who sacrificed so much. I, too, had a POW bracelet that went by the wayside as well. I have no clue what happened to it and that bothers me as well. Please raise a flag for me as the processional passes by.

  2. I have seen the Vietnam Memorial Wall in DC as well as the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall when it came to Reno. I thought the procession and display of respect with the traveling memorial so honorable and respectful. Both my dad and my uncle served in Vietnam; my father stateside and his older brother was boots on the ground during the war. Thanks so much for sharing. Enjoy the procession and display.

  3. Carol King Says:

    God bless them all: active military, veterans, those who gave their lives in service or have since died. We honor and thank them.

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    That moving wall was/is amazing. Many years ago, when it came to Houston, Tom and I (and many of our biker friends) met up with the cavalcade in La Crescent and joined with many other bikers to form the escort on Hwy 16 to the Houston Trailhead Park. Words really can’t describe all the emotion we had that day. People were out of their homes all along the way……waving flags and supporting the event!!!!

  5. That’s very generous of you to open your front yard up for this occasion. Have you visited the Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial near the Capitol in St. Paul? It’s pretty cool. Here is the info: http://www.mvvm.org There are also memorials to other wars – WWI, WWII, Korean, and more – in the area in front of the Capitol. And there are memorials to police officers and firefighters, as well as some other important groups. A person could spend a long time there. And there is a virtual wall to find Minnesotans who died in Vietnam: http://www.virtualwall.org/istate/istatmn.htm. Yep, today I am a font of information; I had a lot of coffee this morning! I hope your front lawn is filled to capacity on Wednesday.

    • I have not visited any of these Capitol grounds memorials, but would like to do so. Thank you for the detailed info, inspired by coffee.

      I, too, am hoping to have some folks show up on my lawn Wednesday afternoon. If it was evening, the time would be better for folks to come watch.

  6. Don Says:

    With a lump in my throat I truly wish I could be there!

  7. Very interesting. I will be checking back for more details

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