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Vietnam vets reflected upon at conference

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 10:46 a.m. MDT

Memorabilia on display at Saints at War, a special conference honoring LDS veterans and their families, at the BYU Conference Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Memorabilia on display at Saints at War, a special conference honoring LDS veterans and their families, at the BYU Conference Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

PROVO — One cannot visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial without being "struck by the spirit of sacrifice," an elder with the LDS Church said Friday.

Elder Lance B. Wickman, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave the keynote address, entitled "The Wall: Reflections on the Legacy of Vietnam," at the third "Saints at War" conference in the BYU Conference Center.

"Veterans Day is a day of remembrance. It is a day to remember all veterans that served in American wars. … So, with the turning of the seasons we gather each year on the 11th of November to remember. To remember and to pay our respects to those who served and especially to those who have fallen," he said.

His remarks were focused on those who fell during the war in Vietnam. He recalled the day Vietnam went from the back page of newspapers and periodicals to the front page and became a household word and, for thousands of American men, including him, became something that changed their lives.

Eugene J. Wikle, LDS district president in Kabul, Afghanistan, talks about establishing the church in Afghanistan. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Eugene J. Wikle, LDS district president in Kabul, Afghanistan, talks about establishing the church in Afghanistan. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

"One cannot visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and not be moved. Known simply as 'the Wall,' the memorial is both an imposing and deeply spiritual place," Elder Wickman said.

He went on to say the Wall is merely a list, but that it is "no ordinary list." There are panels and panels of names of those killed, 58,267 currently.

"But there is a serenity. A deep sense of nobility that permeates the aura surrounding the Wall. Reading down the list of names," he said. "Recognizing name after name after name of those who were once comrades in arms. One is struck by the spirit of sacrifice, of consecration that the Wall represents."

He recounted the history of America's war involvement leading up to Vietnam and the period in history in which it occurred. He then went on to explain some of the more contemporary views of the war while sharing some of his own personal experiences in the war.

Elder Lance B. Wickman, First Quorum of the Seventy, gives his keynote speech during Saints at War, a special conference honoring LDS veterans and their families, at the BYU Conference Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Elder Lance B. Wickman, First Quorum of the Seventy, gives his keynote speech during Saints at War, a special conference honoring LDS veterans and their families, at the BYU Conference Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

"I appreciated his speech," Bonnie Fullmer said. Her husband, Frank J. Fullmer, is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who served in the Vietnam War. "It has helped me heal today and it's been a long time."

"It was a wonderful speech. It really hit home," Frank J. Fullmer said.

Another Air Force veteran agreed.

"I thought it was one of the most spiritual, patriotic speeches I've ever heard. He just did such a good job of tying everything together and making it meaningful to us who have already served, but not forgetting those who had given their all," said retired Lt. Col. Larry Chesley.

Don Norton is an oral historian from Orem whose focus is on veterans.

"(Elder Wickman's remarks) were incredibly articulate and right on target," Norton said. "He was able to say what needed to be said in spite of the horrific dimension of it all, and that was not an easy thing to do."

Memorabilia on display at Saints at War, a special conference honoring LDS veterans and their families, at the BYU Conference Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Memorabilia on display at Saints at War, a special conference honoring LDS veterans and their families, at the BYU Conference Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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