PUNTA GORDA (FOX 13) - The Vietnam memorial Wall in Punta Gorda has more than 58,000 names etched into its marble stone.
Those who lost their lives will be forever remembered because of the wall. Those who visit hold memories of loved ones close to their hearts this Veterans Day. It's one name that causes Marlene Moots' heart to break.
"James Condon was my first love. He was my first husband," she said Friday as she stood at the wall. .
James served in Vietnam. That is also where he died, just one month after being deployed.
"When we got married, I was 19-years-old. When he was killed I was just 22 years old," she recalled.
Though decades have passed grief still has a way of sneaking up on Marlene.
This is where she finds peace.
"It gives a chance for the family to be here and find a little bit of closure," she said.
The Vietnam Memorial Wall was built in Punta Gorda as a way for veterans and family members to remember those lost. Less than a week after it's dedication, hundreds have come to visit and pay their respects.
"I am so happy to see this because I think this is very important. Anyone who has their loved ones and wants to come and spend time is beautiful," said Marlene.
Wayne Smith has 19 classmates memorialized on the wall.
"Those guys are one of the reasons why we were over there. To fight for those guys who passed," he said.
Smith, a retired Airforce Captain, is a former prisoner of war. The wall helps him remember those he fought with.
"When you go there and see the names of people you were classmates with and I still think of those guys. I went to pilot training with some of them. It's good to have a memory of those people," he said.
The wall is an exact replica of the wall in Washington, D.C., but half the size. It carries the same names and message. The brave men listed on the wall all died fighting for us and our country. It's a message that surrounds those here.
"To know all these people here fought and defended our country is beautiful," said Marlene.