Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Wall visit evokes 'Nam tales



By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BATAVIA - Larry Walling was just 20 when he left for Vietnam.

"I wanted to die for my country," he said Tuesday. "Because of my childhood, I thought it was what would make me a man. ... I turned 21 in Vietnam."

The Eastgate resident, who works as a drug and alcohol counselor, is one of the veterans featured in a documentary that was filmed when a traveling memorial to military personnel visited Clermont County last month.

The hour-long movie, produced by Clermont County officials, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. today at the Batavia Armory on Third Street.

It is a frank, emotional film that follows Walling and other veterans as they visit the memorial during its four days at Veterans Park in Union Township.

For Walling, 55, it was his first trip to the display, a replica of the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

"It took me almost 35 years to get over (Vietnam) - emotionally, mentally, and spiritually," Walling said. He is still undergoing intensive therapy and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

"There are a lot of prisoners of war walking the streets of this country right now," he said.

Kathy Lehr, a former broadcast journalist who works as the county's director of communications, produced and directed the movie.

The process was a learning experience for her.

"I am so unbelievably proud of these people who went to Vietnam and endured horrible things in the name of this country," she said. "I'd known about the period, but I never really understood what they went through.

"These veterans - in this movie - they talk about what they went through. And you see that there are so many who are still trying to come home (emotionally)," Lehr added.

The film was the brainchild of a committee that included the Clermont County Veterans Services Commission.

E-mail mmccain@enquirer.com




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