A traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. is in North Texas this week. The Wall That Heals contains the names of every American service member killed in the Vietnam War -- including more than 3,000 Texans.
The exhibit, which is about three-quarters the size of the memorial in the nation's capital, includes the names of more than 58,000 U.S. military personnel killed in service. Stories – whose endings were written too soon.
"It's overwhelming that so many died for our freedom, and our way of life," said Jim Bennett of Lewisville.
Bennett came to see the name of his childhood friend. Robert Hook served in the Army. Hook, who grew up in Dallas, was killed in action in February of 1969.
"He was clearing base to come to my wedding," said Bennett. "I had a surprise for him. I never got to give him that surprise."
The Wall That Heals mobile exhibit has visited nearly 600 communities around the U.S. since it was unveiled more than two decades ago. It is now open at Lewisville Lake Park, and will remain on display around the clock through Sunday afternoon. For many, it's a way to connect with lost friends and loved ones.
"When you see all these names, so many gave their lives over there and it's overwhelming," said Kay Tomberlin of Flower Mound, who went to the wall to see the name of a childhood friend of her husband.
"It really stops and makes you think about the bravery of these men to give their lives."
Kay Papaila, of Lewisville, visited the wall, looking for the name of her cousin. Thomas Pearson, Jr. was a Marine, who was killed in action in January of 1968.
"These are people that means something to us," said Papaila. "These were not nameless people you saw on TV, caskets coming off an airplane. These were people."
For some who served, the memories of service in the Vietnam War – and struggles faced once they returned home -- are still too painful to talk about.
"They all served in a very difficult environment," said Papaila. "This helps show the magnitude of the cost of war."
So many gone. But never forgotten.
"It's just so powerful," said Bennett. "That's why these walls mean so much to a lot of us."