GARDINER — Sometimes a place becomes real when you can touch it.

Reaching on Thursday for a crystal chunk on a table in the parish hall at Christ Episcopal Church, Robert Egloff said, “This is from Cambodia.”

The rock is part of a collection of items that Egloff has assembled over years of collecting.

This week, it’s on display at the church, which has opened its doors for events in conjunction with The Wall That Heals, the display of the traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial just across Dresden Avenue in the Gardiner Common.

On tables that encircle the parish hall, and even overhead, items from Egloff’s collection shine a light on the era of the Vietnam War, a tempestuous and turbulent time in American history.

There are uniforms, caps, hats, insignias, weapons, Life magazines, helmets, record albums of pop and rock music popular in the 1960s and 1970s, transistor radios, a tape recorder and political memorabilia from the period, as well as a parachute complete in its pack and one suspended from the ceiling.

Earlier in the day, the opening ceremony for The Wall That Heals, which included brief comments from elected officials, music and a proclamation read by Mayor Thom Harnett designating July 19-22 as The Wall That Heals Days in Gardiner, drew dozens of spectators from around the region.

People continued to arrive throughout the day, as they are expected to through Sunday, the final day of the wall’s only stop in Maine this year.


The museum is part of the other events that are taking place in conjunction with the wall. Christ Church is showing the Ken Burns-Lynn Novick documentary “The Vietnam War” in its entirety around the clock downstairs at the church, and the sanctuary will be open for those wishing to pray or reflect.

Silhouettes from the Silhouette Project have been installed along the pathway of the Christ Church’s churchyard to raise awareness about suicide among veterans.

But for those who want a break, the church is offering free refreshments and a chance to see Egloff’s collection on display.

At one end of the hall is a the memorial that Egloff and his wife, Billie Ellis, made to those men from the area who lost their lives in Vietnam, as well as the service dogs killed in action.

“We made that for the Veterans Day luncheon,” Ellis said. “That’s when we announced that the wall was coming. It was a nice surprise.”

Egloff has found pieces of his collection at flea markets, Goodwill stores, on eBay and at Elmer’s Barn, in Whitefield, among other places. It is kept in a room above the couple’s garage.

“I’ve been around it all my life,” Egloff said.

His grandfather served for years in the Air National Guard, and Egloff served in the U.S. Air Force from 1991 to 1995. He was stationed in Nevada and deployed to Saudi Arabia before finishing his time in South Carolina.

One of the tables is dedicated to items that are representative of the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese who supported the communist movement, and the North Vietnamese.

And one of the tables is devoted to the ’60s culture, with dashikis — loose brightly colored shirts patterned after West African tunics — sandals and a floppy hat, a peace sign button and a plastic Snoopy.

“It’s for the veterans to be able to connect with their pasts,” he said.

Events at the wall will continue on Friday. At 6 p.m., a Welcome Home Celebration will be held, recognizing Vietnam veterans and Gold Star families. The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services and the committee that brought the wall to the Common are hosting the event. Veterans who have registered will be presented with a certificate of appreciation, a Vietnam Veteran coin and a 50th anniversary lapel pin. Families that have registered will be presented with a certificate of appreciation, a lapel pin and a Gold Star medal honoring both the family and the veteran.

At 7:30 p.m., volunteers will continue to read the names of Mainers killed in Vietnam whose names appear on the wall, followed by taps.

At 8 p.m., a candlelight vigil has been scheduled with music from the Don Roak & Friends Band.

Saturday is an open day for reflection. At 7:30 p.m., volunteers will continue to read the names of Mainers killed in Vietnam whose names appear on the wall, followed by taps.

On Sunday, an interfaith service is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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