Doron Doravi, a truck owner-operator with Minneapolis-based trucking firm Admiral Merchants, was hauling precious cargo last week.
Doravi is one of dozens of truckers who volunteer to drive a 375-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to be viewed around America.
A week ago Sunday, Doravi picked up the exhibit in Eagan, overnighted at the St. Paul airport, then drove to downtown Minneapolis on Monday. He expertly inserted the 53-foot trailer into the narrow parking lot of Short Cos., Admiral Merchants' parent firm.
Brian Short, the company's president, and other executives treated Doravi and other employees to a barbecue lunch. Then Doravi drove the truck and replica wall to Winsted, about an hour west of Minneapolis.
The replica stood in Winsted for a week. Other truckers hauled the display from Winsted to Iowa this past weekend. It will tour other states through November.
Short said Admiral Merchants, for a second year, was proud to support Doravi by transporting the wall replica. Doravi, 60, is a veteran of the Israeli Army.
"I have a soft spot in my heart for veterans," Doravi said. "Veterans do what they need to do. The politicians make the decisions, right or wrong. Because of the way some treated veterans who came back from Vietnam, I don't think we've … well, this is a little way of saying thanks.
"I wasn't born here but I'm a citizen. It's my truck. I made the decision with my wife to do this. Once a year. It's a big operation. I represent myself, my family and many drivers who are veterans. And two friends who were Marines in Vietnam. They have passed away."
There are lots of truckers who are veterans.
"They are used to being away from home,'' said Tim Burke, an Admiral Merchants manager, as he helped prepare the lunch. Doug Milroy, a Navy veteran and Admiral Merchants executive, was head chef.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a tribute to those who died in a war that divided America. It also has proven to be "a wall that heals.''
The 40-year-old masterpiece by Maya Lin, then an architecture student at Yale University, is an understated and wondrous work on the Mall in Washington. It's a long stretch of black granite on which is inscribed the names of 58,000-plus American service members killed or missing in Vietnam, in chronological order of their dates of death, through 1975.
The wall's mirror-like surface reflects the surrounding trees, lawns and monuments. Set into the ground, visitors who walk its length descend to its middle point, the wall looming above them with names, and then ascend again to its end.
Jan Scruggs, then a 19-year-old Army infantryman, spent a year in the war and was wounded in combat. After some struggles back home, Scruggs earned a master's degree in counseling psychology and was recognized as one of the first experts on PTSD, after it was officially classified by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980.
Scruggs, after seeing the Vietnam War movie "The Deer Hunter" in 1979, started a longshot effort to commemorate the soldiers and and others who served in Vietnam. A boost by a network TV news report led to several million dollars in private and government support. He formed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which completed the wall in 1982.
Don St. Dennis, a Vietnam veteran and former Army sergeant, was drafted in 1969, after a transcript issue at the University of Minnesota that allowed the draft board to call him. He served his tour — and earned a Bronze Star.
St. Dennis, 72, who went on to a business and teaching career, retired early in 2016 when he started to experience kidney failure from Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant sprayed in the jungle by U.S. forces and linked to thousands more veteran deaths. He received a life-saving kidney transplant in 2020.
St. Dennis, a calm man who has credited family and a "mishmash" of liberal Catholicism and Buddhism with helping him cope after the war, has visited the traveling memorial as well as the wall in Washington, D.C.
"The D.C. wall has always had a profound effect on me," St. Dennis said. "I have a poster of it in my home office."