VETERANS GATHER AT MEMORIAL : FALLEN FRIENDS RECALLED ON EXHIBIT'S LAST DAY.
Ed Beer of Northridge said he has spent the past 30 years trying to forget about the Vietnam War.
``I won't even watch a movie about Vietnam. I won't touch a gun anymore,'' Beer said.
But on Sunday he visited the Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial on display at Warner Park in Woodland Hills.
``I decided maybe now is good time to deal with it,'' Beer said. ``I came close to being one of these guys.''
Beer's decision to visit the memorial came at the urging of Sandy Altner. He had fallen in love with her while stationed in Houston before being sent to Vietnam. But Beer broke off the relationship before he went overseas.
``I really believed I was going to get killed. I just thought it would be better for us to disconnect,'' Beer said.
Last fall after three decades of not seeing one another, Altner tracked him down through the Internet. Both had been married since and had children. But their marriages were ending when they met again, and they have since fallen in love again.
At the wall Sunday, Beer reflected on the war.
``It wasn't a political issue with us. We looked at it as our job,'' he said of his service in the war. ``Since then, I think it was a terrible waste of lives. I don't want to say it was for nothing, but it certainly wasn't worth the price.''
Returning from an unpopular war was difficult, he said, because of ties to the soldiers still fighting and his own conflicted feelings about the fighting.
``The biggest thing that bothered me was coming back and hearing nasty comments, people making gestures and acting like I was a murderer,'' Beer said. ``It's important that people grow up at least understanding that people thought they were doing something important. It was something people were willing to die for.''
Sunday was the final of four days that the wall was on display. Participants took turns reading off the names of 5,822 soldiers from California killed in Vietnam.
``We're going to give honor to each one of them,'' said Simba Wiley Roberts, an active member of the Brotherhood Rally of All Veterans Organizations and a Vietnam veteran.
David Biscoff, 50, said he was plucked out of what then was known as San Fernando Valley State College to serve in the war when he was 19 years old.
``I could be on that wall just as easy as not,'' said Biscoff, who was shot twice as a platoon leader. ``It's a reaffirmation of thankfulness that I'm here. I complain all day about this and that, but I'm not on the wall.''
His eyes were a deep red behind his sunglasses Sunday. He found the names of three friends on the wall.
The names included that of Lawrence Babyak, a fraternity brother from college.
He had returned from Vietnam with Biscoff. But instead of staying in the United States, Babyak decided on a second tour of duty and was killed.
PHOTO (1) Veteran Mark Dopson of Palmdale takes a rubbing of a falle n friend's name from the traveling Vietnam memorial Sunday.
(2 -- 3) Tom Comstock, at top, gets support from his wife, Myrna, as he locates names of friends who died in the Vietnam War at the Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Woodland Hills. At left, Simba Wiley Roberts and Vaughn Binzer greet each other as fellow veterans Sunday.
Tina Gerson/Daily News