Vietnam wall, Huey key draws at Veterans Fest in Effingham

Vietnam wall, Huey key draws at Veterans Fest in Effingham

EFFINGHAM — Edward Duncan points to his dead friend's name on the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall in Effingham.

He came all the way from California to find the name of Rodger Crow, who was killed right next to him Aug. 30, 1970.

A rocket hit their armored personnel carrier, but Duncan somehow survived.

"I think of him a lot," he said Saturday.

Veterans Fest, which continues today in Effingham, shares space with the Mid America Motorworks' car show, heavy on Volkswagen Beetles and Corvettes. On Saturday there, it was a little easier to find a car fan than a veteran.

Jeff Tinsley of Maroa, a Korean War veteran, said he was touched by the festival. He'd managed to get into his old uniform, so he got in free Saturday. The event honors personnel from all service branches.

"I was moved. Especially by what they did for the Vietnam boys. They never got the showing they deserved," he said.

Also from the Vietnam era: a Bell Huey helicopter, circling above the cars like something out of "Apocalypse Now."

Lori Baker of Decatur was waiting in the 92-degree heat, hoping for a ride.

"My dad was in Vietnam, but he's passed. I'd like to know a little of how it all felt for him," she said.

The event's organizer, Rantoul's Jerry "Doc" Wiese, has planned veterans event for several years, including plane rides, and plans to do this festival again — but in May, with more support and not sharing space with another festival.

"We need more donors and organizations cooperating with us," he said.

Wiese has seen difficult times.

He lost eight friends and comrades in his platoon on a single day in Vietnam, where he served as a combat medic and carried an enormous pack in the jungle.

But the festival was a disappointment in its first two days, he said.

"I thought we might get 10,000, but there were maybe 200 altogether," Wiese said. He said the event had 8,900 Facebook followers.

Wiese was personally chagrined that he brought Hal Fritz — a recipient of the nation's top military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Vietnam War. Wiese said the captain didn't get the welcome he was deserving of for his service.

But "the helicopter ride was doing good business," he said.

Some felt the festival was a "financial flop, but there's a lot of things here that are great. We'll do it again," Wiese said.

For Rick Kuntzler of the trip was well worth it.

"The wall, even at a small size, it's one of the most moving things I've ever seen," the Charleston man said.

Sections (3):News, Local, State
Topics (1):People