Three generations of one Iowa family reflect at The Wall That Heals

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MOLINE, Illinois -

On one of July's hottest days, Vietnam veteran Jon Harrison is cold.

"You just have chills run down your back and get goose bumps," he recalled, on Thursday, July 27.  "Just how close, maybe, your name could be on that wall."

Three generations of the Harrison family are visiting The Wall That Heals.  There are more than 58,000 names on the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The touring exhibit remains open 24-7 through Sunday, July 30, at the Western Illinois University campus on River Drive in Moline.

"None of them got to have grandchildren," he recalled.  "None of them got to have children."

One name, for Jon, is especially important to find.

"We were in the same platoon," he said.

Clayton Middleton, a faithful young man from Kentucky, was killed in action 50 years ago.  The same land mine wounded Jon Harrison on that March 1967 day in Vietnam.

"It was really a tragedy when he was killed because we were so close," he remembered.

To this day, Jon's son, Matt Harrison, wears Clayton's memorial bracelet.  The North Scott Junior High Math teacher is taking in this living history.

"To come with somebody who was there and hear the stories is an important part of the cycle," Matt said.

While visitors to the wall think about their own personal experiences, Jon Harrison remembers connecting with his late buddy's family decades later.

Jon was able to visit Clayton's grave site and talk with his relatives.

"It was kind of a healing process for me," he said.  "For some 40 years, this was in the back of my mind."

As three generations depart on Thursday, it leaves a lasting impression.

"How they heard the call and went there for us," Matt said.

"For the next generation to realize the sacrifice these 58-thousand people made for their country," Jon concluded.  "To keep that alive for the next generation to know that these people sacrificed."

For this family, it's the cold reality on a very hot day.