HAVERHILL — Rick Ladd scanned the wide black wall in North Haverhill Thursday, searching for the name William Bond, a brigadier general and Ladd's old commanding officer in Vietnam.
"He was an outstanding leader, a good tactician loved by his men. He was not an armchair general. So we remember," said Ladd, a Haverhill selectman and New Hampshire state representative.
But 44 years ago, Ladd was in the Army's 199th Light Infantry Brigade, and serving in Cambodia at a time when no American troops were in Cambodia, at least according to then-President Richard M. Nixon.
Also in Cambodia at the time was a soldier who lives in Woodsville, just a short ride from Ladd's home. The two didn't know each other then, but it was Steve Wheeler's job to call for artillery fire, and it was Ladd's job to see that the summoned artillery was delivered.
Wheeler and Ladd and members of their families were both on hand Thursday at the North Haverhill Fairgrounds where a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will stand through Memorial Day afternoon on Monday.
"I was in Xuan Loc, old plantations, rubber trees, actually beautiful country," Ladd said, as buses opened their doors and released a large group of Haverhill Cooperative Middle School students who toured the memorial.
There are a full array of events planned at the site through Monday, including a visit today just before noon by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, who will deliver an address.
The replica wall also drew a large number of visitors from Vermont, including Gayle Rogers of Newbury, who was with Margaret Shields of Groton.
Rogers considered the impact of the service members' deaths on the thousands of their friends and family members.
"It's hard to comprehend all these names," Rogers said, as she viewed the memorial to the 58,000 Americans who died as a result of the Vietnam War.