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The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1982. In the first 15 years, 54,000 items were left at the Wall. It still takes almost an hour every night, [and much longer on Memorial Day,] to collect all the mementos-a teddy bear, a photo of a soldier's grandchild, a letter from a daughter who never knew her dad.

Every item is labeled and taken to a warehouse. No one knows quite how to deal with it all. "No one ever expected this to happen," a park ranger says. "It's so personal. It caught everyone by surprise."

Loss comes to us all, and we often carry our grief for many years. We struggle with our emotions. Is there a place where we can leave...

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