Doffing hats and holding hands over their hearts, dozens of servicemen and women turned out on Veterans Day to pay tribute to the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.
They took part in a ceremony downtown, where the largest-ever version of Lee Teter’s famous “Vietnam Reflections” painting was dedicated.
The enormous tableau by Amherst artist Mike Sekletar was recreated with the permission of Vietnam Veterans Chapter 172 of Cumberland, Md., which holds rights to the image.
“It’s such a moving image,” said Lou Maglio of Fox 8 in Cleveland, who served as master of ceremonies.
It equals the emotional impact of the Iwo Jima mural that hangs just feet away, he said.
“Vietnam Reflections” depicts a surviving veteran visiting the wall and connecting with the memories of those left behind on the battlefield.
Jim Williams, the man who modeled for the painting, attended the mural dedication Monday.
“Although it’s an honor to be in that print, I feel the honor belongs to all veterans, especially the mud-and-blood grunts,” he said.
Sekletar, a Steele High School graduate, said he wasn’t born yet during the Vietnam War, but he considered it an honor to use his abilities to bridge a gap and explain to young people about the sacrifices made by his father’s generation of veterans.
About 300 Nord Middle School students attended the ceremony to learn that lesson.
Sekletar praised Teter’s vision to give faces to the names of the slain servicemen and women that decorate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
“To bring a face to all those names brings a reality to it,” he said.
The Amherst version has one small modification from the original painting: It bears the names of the 98 Lorain County men slain in Vietnam.