As hot as the day was getting, Calvin Hicks still felt chills shoot down his back before noon Sunday as he stood on the artificial turf of North Kansas City High School’s football field.
He had come to see a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There, on Panel 23E, 69 lines from the top, was the name he was looking for: Roger D. Cecil, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marines who died on July 14, 1967. Hicks’ cousin.
The name just popped out at him, said Hicks, of Kansas City, Kan.
“It’s just a very emotional feeling to know you’re that close to touching somebody that you knew years ago that you haven’t seen for what — 45 years?” Hicks said. “That’s the closest I’ve been to him since then.”
The half-scale facsimile, known as the Wall That Heals, had been on display in North Kansas City since Thursday.
By the closing ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday, more than 14,000 people had visited the wall, organizers said. The display was part of the city’s centennial observance.
Hicks said the visit brought back memories of how dedicated his cousin was to the service and how he was more than willing to fight.
“We visited with him before he left and he told us before he even left that he wasn’t coming back — and he didn’t,” Hicks said. “He just felt like he was going to give everything he had to sacrifice for our country. If it was death, so be it.”
Harland and Pat Burger of Kansas City, North, brought their two daughters, Roxanne, 18, and Katrina, 13, so they could see a part of America’s history.
Burger said he was in the U.S. Navy before Vietnam but his brother served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army during the war.
“I think it’s really important to honor the people who gave up their lives for our freedom and the Vietnamese people’s freedom, too,” he said.
Roxanne Burger said it is important to remember to every part of history, not just the things that went well. It’s also important to remember the men and women who died, she said.
“They made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and to just let them fade into the past is not something we want to happen,” she said.
The wall has visited the Kansas City area several times over the years, including a stop in Blue Springs in 2010.
Whenever the wall comes to town, Jim Parsons of Independence makes a point to leave something to honor a man he knew, as well as some others.
On Sunday, he took flags.
Parsons knew Richard Rudolph of Atlanta, who died on June 6, 1968.
“We went to high school together in Hannibal, Mo.,” Parsons said. “I didn’t know until about four or five years ago that he died over there.”
Parsons, a Vietnam veteran himself, choked up as he explained why he felt compelled to bring flags Sunday.
“These people gave everything they could — they paid the ultimate price,” he said. “I came back, and this is the least I could do.”