Former Army tank commander David Hume of Akron is one of about 50 volunteers who help construct the at in Fairlawn, which will be on display Friday through Sunday (Aug. 19-21).
"What Vietnam taught me, you really don't want to know," Hume, 67, said Thursday. "I can tell you that it gave me a respect for life, and how fragile life really is.
"Never take a day for granted, because you might not be here tomorrow, or even this afternoon."
Hume was a sergeant in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 – he volunteered to go. After the war he worked as an Ohio State Trooper and for Ohio Edison.
He survived cancer at age 38. He attributes the disease to exposure to Agent Orange. Hume said the chemical also caused his two sons and daughters to suffer physical handicaps.
"To tell you the truth," he said, "I think it made them stronger people."
Hume is a member of the Akron Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8975. He and his wife of 33 years, Pat, volunteer when the wall is displayed near their home. Both work shifts guarding the wall and helping visitors get acquainted.
David Hume said the youngest person of the 58,000 dead and missing listed on the wall is a 15-year-old who lied about his age to enlist. The oldest veteran is 62. Eight women are named on the wall.
"The longest name is here," Hume said, pointing at an inscription for Frank W. Jealous-of-him. "He was a Sioux Indian from South Dakota. One of the guys who travels with the wall said he knew him and that he was one heck of a soldier."
Pat Hume said she spends time telling visitors about the traditions of the wall that might not be widely known.
"People leave roses all along the wall for loved ones, and they are not to be picked up. At the end of the ceremony they are buried in a special ceremony."
Admission to the display is free. The wall is open to visitors 24 hours a day beginning Friday.
To search the wall for a particular name, check the searchable database here. Attendants can also look up a name for you at the Fairlawn display.