Tomb of the Unknown Soldier replica sparks veteran reunion

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A replica of a well-known tomb is making its way around the county and was on display in Sioux Falls over the weekend. The replica caused a reunion between two Vietnam veterans.

The half-sized replica of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was at the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance Saturday and Sunday. It was built by and belongs to the Exchange Club in Rome, Georgia.

“We have been on tour for the last three and a half to four years hoping to get everybody educated about what the tomb is really about and to make sure that we never forget about the sacrifices that this tomb represents,” project manager Bill King said.

The replica coming to Sioux Falls sparked a reunion.

“Meeting him again was just like a brand new day,” Vietnam veteran Howard Cothran said.

Army veterans Gene Murphy and Cothran both served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. Murphy is from Sioux falls, while Cothran is from Georgia and works with the group traveling with the replica.

“He seen by backpack and it says 4th Infantry Vietnam vet, and then of course on his hat he’s got the 4th I.D.,” Murphy said.

The two veterans realized they served with the same company at the same time. They did not know each other personally while serving in Vietnam.

“We asked each other, ‘hey, what outfit were you with with the 4th?’ and we were, again, both with the first of the 12th Charlie Company,” Murphy said.

“Most of the guys that you see now, they gone or they’re in really bad shape. In a nursing home or something, so we’re lucky,” Cothran said.

“I always say the good lord has blessed us,” Murphy said. “I’m a firm believer that he let Howard and myself both live and it was for a purpose. Look at Howard, and Howard’s going throughout the country with the Tomb of the Unknown.”

It is a reunion that has established a new friendship.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier replica will next make a stop in Seward, Nebraska.

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