Perry and Virginia Butler of Santa Rosa stood before the 100-foot-long wall listing the military personnel, police, firefighters and civilians who have died as a result of war and acts of terrorism over the last three decades.
"A lot of names," said a somber Perry Butler, who had come Monday to Santa Rosa Memorial Park to honor his father and stepfather, both deceased World War II Army veterans. "That kind of puts it in perspective."
The Global War on Terror Wall of Remembrance was in Santa Rosa for the Memorial Day weekend, the 39th community to host the traveling memorial in the last two years. It next will be set up in Eureka and will go to Sacramento for Veteran's Day.
The 31 white panels include 10,882 names, including some added this month, its sponsors say.
The huge blocks of names are reminiscent of the Vietnam memorial wall. But this memorial has an added element, a back side with pictures and brief text of events dating back to 1983, when 241 American military personnel were killed by a truck bomb while stationed in Beirut, Lebanon. The three decades of history include the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Traveling around the nation, creator J.R. Nichols of the nonprofit Rear Area Support Foundation of Placentia, Calif., said his crew has heard moving stories from those visiting the wall: of three sisters on 9/11 who all were at the Twin Towers in New York, only two of whom survived; of an airline pilot who was supposed to be on one of the hijacked planes that day but called in sick; and of a Pentagon worker who escaped death because she had not yet received the paperwork needed to transfer her to that area of the complex where one of the hijacked jets struck.
The wall serves to provide closure for vets who never got to say goodbye to fallen comrades in battle, Nichols said.
But it also educates Americans and reminds them that military personnel are still fighting and dying.
"They're not home yet," Nichols said.
The wall exists because "we need to tell their story."