Gold Star Day recognizes families of fallen Vietnam War soldiers

BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) — A replica of the Vietnam War Memorial is in Bristol this weekend. People from all over Connecticut are visiting it and paying their respects.

The community on Saturday recognized the families whose loved ones’ names appear on the wall.

Cheryl Johnson was just 15 years old when her father, Eugene Johnson, was killed in Vietnam. He was only 40, and three months shy of retirement. Years later, it’s still hard on her and her siblings.

“It’s a loss,” she said. “It’s a huge loss on many levels that many people just don’t understand.”

Her family is a Gold Star family, one that lost a loved one in the Vietnam War. Those who died in the war are being remembered while the Vietnam Memorial Wall that Heals is in Bristol, but Saturday’s focus was on their families.

“That wall, it just makes me so proud,” said Norma Mallet, whose first husband was killed in Vietnam.

Mallet’s husband died less than three months after they married and she still has his letters. She’s grateful the wall made a stop in Bristol.

“It just gives you a feeling of warmth – to me – and to other families it should do the same,” she said.

As families come to see the wall, the Gold Star families hope they understand what’s behind each of those names.

“That’s 58,000 plus names on that wall, and each and every one of those was a life – a young life, typically,” said Dennis R. Blanchard, whose brother Tom was killed in the Vietnam War.

The personal items that visitors have left behind at the wall will be saved. They’ll be displayed at the Bristol Public Library over the summer.

The Vietnam Memorial Wall that Heals will be in Bristol until Monday.

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