Duery Felton and Rick Weidman

Every day since it officially opened in November 1982, visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. have left tributes to those whose names are engraved on The Wall: medals, dog tags, clothing, and other objects they associate with friends, loved ones, and fellow service members.

The Memorial Wall is under the supervision of the National Park Service, feltonand when Duery Felton learned that park rangers were collecting and storing this huge collection of items, he became a volunteer in order to see them for himself. Eventually he was offered a full-time position as the first curator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, a job he held for 28 years before retiring in 2014.

Duery, who served in Vietnam, came to StoryCorps with his friend and fellow war veteran, Rick Weidman (pictured together above), to discuss what drew him to the wall, and to talk about his service during the Vietnam War.

Click here to view a gallery of some of the more than 400,000 items left by visitors to The Wall.

Originally aired November 12, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.