She found his name and then choked up. Her husband was already crying.
George Cross, 60, was a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam. The sergeant served two tours, and today, in his job with the Chester County corrections department, he still suffers from exposure to Agent Orange. He considers himself one of the fortunate.
"I look at this wall," he said, "and it brings back tears. It makes me proud of the ones that served along with me. We had a job to do, and we did what we were asked to do.
"But it hurts at the same time. We didn't get support and the recognition when we came home."
The official name of the exhibit mounted on the grounds of the hospital for five days last week was the Vietnam Traveling Wall. It has a nickname as well:
The Wall That Heals.
The memorial is half the size of the original in Washington, so the names are jammed closer together, which makes the experience even more disorienting. Ask Buddy Rhoades.
"You see names, I see faces," says Rhoades, 67, wearing a Purple Heart jacket.
I ask how many names he recognizes and his blue eyes glaze.
He lives in East Fallowfield Township, grew up around Coatesville, knew some of the boys from school, church, and football. He joined the Special Forces, doing his hairiest work in Cambodia.
"I sometimes wonder why others died and not me," he said. "What I think about now is how to help other veterans who are coming home. I think that's my purpose, that and helping to make sure these guys are not forgotten."
With him was Barry Durkee, 62, a project manager for a developer in Chester. He talks about his reception after his Vietnam tours ended in 1972.
"I arrived in my khakis at the airport in Reading, and there's this mother and this young boy. The mother doesn't see me, but the boy does and his eyes lit up - a soldier! She turns and I see her expression of disgust. She pulled him close as if to protect him from me. That really hurt."
Durkee grew up in Shillington, Pa., where he had John Updike's father for junior high math. Durkee's older brother was a Marine. So he enlisted in the Army, starting as a helicopter mechanic, then replacing a fallen crewmate as a gunner.
He served four years, 10 months, 28 days, and 16 hours, though it sometimes feels as though he's still serving.
"I hear a helicopter today and I'm back there. Smells, sounds do it. Sometimes I just like to forget."
Deborah and George Cross left the memorial after braving the elements for an hour. As they were heading for their car, a man approached from the opposite direction.
They didn't know each other, but the man recognized something in him and grabbed Cross anyway. They hugged.
"Thanks for serving," each man said, then they went their separate ways.
Contact Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917, email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @danielrubin or Facebook at http://ph.ly/DanRubin.