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Just a name on a wall? No, it is much more than that

I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Joe Hardy. In fact, he died before I was even born.

When I was in grade school and junior high, I admired his son, Shane, who was my counselor one year during basketball camp. Shane was a great athlete at my alma mater, Adena High School. Shane was the quarterback of the football team, point guard of the basketball team and an ace pitcher on the baseball team.

It's sad Joe never got the opportunity to share this joy with his son. Sadder, though, is the fact Shane didn't have much of a chance to know his father.

Even though I didn't know Joe Hardy, he is my only human connection to the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Spc. 4 Joseph Edgar Hardy, of Frankfort, Ohio, died during the Vietnam War. As a member of the Army Selective Service,

he served the country until Nov. 24, 1969, when his body was found in Pleiku, South Vietnam. His cause of death is listed as an undetermined accident. He was only 22 years old.

Last Friday -- on Independence Day nonetheless

-- I visited Joe again. The Traveling American Tribute Wall -- a

4/5 scale replica of the real Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington -- was in Central Park in Ashland, Ky., as part of the annual Summer Motion events.

It was the second time I had the opportunity to view a traveling "Wall." When I was working in Jackson, I had the privilege of covering "The Wall That Heals," another Vietnam Memorial replica. It was set up in Manpower Park during the Apple Festival a few years back.

As I looked up his name once again -- located on panel 16W, line 117 -- I felt my eyes tear up. Even though Joe is no longer with us, the legacy he and his comrades left will live on forever.

As impressive as the replica is, it does not compare to the real one. When I was 13, my parents took me to Washington, and of all the attractions, I was most awed by "The Wall."

The structure itself is majestic. The 250-foot long walls are 10-feet tall at their apex, and gradually slope down to ground level. You can even see your own reflection as you gaze into the stone.

The walls are inscribed with the names of the more than 58,000 U.S. men and women who were killed or missing in the Vietnam War.

"The Wall" serves as a testament to the sacrifice of Americans during one of this nation's least-popular wars. "The Wall" is more than a list of names, it brings into focus the brave Americans who are no longer with us.

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 19 or by e-mail to shawn.doyle@irontontribune.com.