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VISIT UTAH VIETNAM MEMORIAL

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Many hundreds of Utah Vietnam veterans and their families are expected to be drawn to the heroic-sized bronze Vietnam Memorial that will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Saturday at a site west of the State Capitol. There is certain to be an emotional tug at the hearts of viewers.

The strength of that tug can be seen in the fact that many vets have wandered to the site in recent days, even before the statue of a Vietnam infantryman was in place.The memorial, built with donated funds and some state help, will include the realistic statue, titled "But Not Forgotten," and four polished black marble plaques engraved with the names of the 389 Utahns who died in Vietnam.

Let's hope that the memorial will help heal wounds left from the war that ended some 16 years ago.

The war created an especially bitter time, with the nation divided over the purpose and morality of the conflict. Those who fought were often either vilified or ignored. For them and for the families of those who died, this treatment, or lack of recognition, was difficult to bear.

The memorial, like the more famous Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., may prove to be a catharsis for many veterans and their families - providing a place to remember, to express emotions, to come to a sense acceptance and peace.

However, the memorial is not only for those who fought and died in Southeast Asia. It is for all Utahns, including school children too young to know anything about that conflict, which seems to be fading so rapidly into the musty pages of history.

The lessons of the memorial have to do with the personal and human costs of war and with the meaning of such words as valor, honor, duty and sacrifice. These are traits and values that every person needs to be reminded of from time to time.

If they cannot be at the dedication, Utahns should take the time on some other occasion to visit the memorial and ponder its messages.