Exhibit memorializes Michigan soldiers killed in Vietnam War

By: Sara Kandel, | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 24, 2011

ROSEVILLE — The wall lists 2,654 men by name, rank, service and city. The books that line the table in front of it offer insights into just 2,200 of them with some detail on who they were, but mostly about how they died.

The men listed are Michigan soldiers who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War.

The wall is a part of a traveling exhibit that memorializes the soldiers lost in the war and honors their service to the county with descriptions of their responsibilities during the war.

 Pat Daniels travels with the Vietnam exhibit throughout the year to reach  out to veterans in need and remind visitors of the sacrifices American soldiers make.

Pat Daniels travels with the Vietnam exhibit throughout the year to reach out to veterans in need and remind visitors of the sacrifices American soldiers make.

Photo by Sara Kandel

“They are more than just names on a wall,” said Pat Daniels, himself a Vietnam veteran. “They were men that gave all for their country and died in doing it.”

Daniels, a Clinton Township resident and member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 in Roseville, was the main force behind the exhibit. He travels with it across the state and helps visitors locate information on people they knew who were killed in duty.

Last year, he traveled with the exhibit all 35 weekends that it was on display somewhere.

He uses the exhibit not only to memorialize fallen soldiers but also to reach Vietnam vets in need of assistance or who do not know their rights.

In front of the display are pamphlets on the adverse effects of exposure to Agent Orange, the chemical used to kill foliage in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia. Type II diabetes, prostate cancer and Ischemic heart disease are all associated with exposure to the dangerous chemical, but many veterans do not file claims with the VA to cover the costs of treatments, Daniels said, because they do not know they are related or don’t know how to go about filing the claim.

One of Daniels’ goals is to help these veterans, so he keeps brochures and information handy everywhere the exhibit travels.

Lt. Mike Kerr thumbed through the prostate cancer brochure while checking out the exhibit May 18 at American House East 1 in Roseville. He was diagnosed a year ago. He hadn’t originally planned on filing a claim.

“Two of the guys from my platoon flew up from Florida and showed up on my porch,” Kerr said. “They said, ‘We’re here to take you to file your claim, and there is two of us and only one of you, so we will take you by force if we have to.’”

Kerr ended up filing the claim. He picked up the brochure to pass it along to anyone that might need it. He said he came to the exhibit to honor the memories of the fallen soldiers and pick up information on a soldier he fought with who went to the same high school his granddaughter will be graduating from next year.

Kerr had a printout of the soldier’s information that he said he will give to his granddaughter. The printouts are available to everyone.

Fran Marable, regional director of American House Senior Living Communities, said the books offered more insight into the deaths of the soldiers than their families had previously known.

She mentioned one veteran currently living at American House East I in Roseville for whom she helped locate a relative while the display was up.

“The cause of death was drowning and asphyxia,” she said. “That’s pretty descriptive. I’m not even sure he had known that before, and he had served with him.”

The display was only up at American House for one day before moving on, but it will make its way back to this side of the state when it will be up May 24-26 at the Compuware facility in downtown Detroit.

Daniels said he hopes the exhibit will also help people keep our current soldiers close to heart by remembering the casualties suffered in the past.

“The only thing we owe them (American soldiers) is everything,” he says to everyone who asks about the exhibit.