SOUTH PORTLAND (AP) – Lilly Pyle, who came from Vietnam as a teenager in 1972, traced her fingers over the names etched into the panels of a replica of the Vietnam Memorial. She began sobbing.

The arrival of the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall gave Pyle another chance to honor the sacrifice of the 58,175 Americans who died or went missing in the Vietnam War.

“I’m so sorry … all alone in a country you don’t know,” Pyle said Wednesday, referring to the thousands of soldiers killed in her native country.

The traveling monument, a 240-foot-long replica of the 493-foot-long memorial in Washington, D.C., arrived for assembly on Wednesday. It will be displayed today through Sunday at the Spring Point Light Shoreway. Visitors will be able to see the wall 24 hours a day for free.

Pyle, who has a hair salon in the Old Port, is one of the many volunteers involved in the project. She raised money and serves on the hospitality committee.

She has a unique perspective on the war having grown up in the village of Dong Ha, where her memories included rockets falling around homes. She also remembers helping to collect dead bodies after a Viet Cong attack.

Villagers like Pyle worked with the U.S. military. She filled sandbags and worked as a cleaner. Later, South Vietnamese soldiers trained villagers to use guns and booby traps.

Children helped to guard a bamboo fence erected to protect the village.

In 1972, the Viet Cong took over the area and Pyle’s family went to a refugee camp in Da Nang, where she met again a soldier she had known in Dong Ha. They decided to marry, and Pyle joined him in the United States. They were together eight years before divorcing.

Pyle raised a son and a daughter, went to school and became a hairdresser. She opened her own business in the early 1990s.

She remains grateful to the United States and American veterans. She gets upset when people say the Vietnam War was a mistake.

“Americans went there for a good purpose,” she said.

Information from: Portland Press Herald,

AP-ES-08-10-06 1114EDT

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