Sgt. Allen James Lynch rescued three wounded soldiers during a December 1967 firefight in Vietnam and stayed behind to protect them when the rest of his company withdrew.
Lynch received the Medal of Honor in 1970 for his actions.
Schedule of activities2 p.m. Saturday: Recognition of Gold Star Families who lost loved ones in war
6 p.m. to midnight Saturday: A night out for veterans at Ballydoyle to benefit Honor Flight Chicago, a group that flies World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II memorial
10 a.m. Sunday: A nondenominational healing service at the Moving Wall
2 p.m. Monday: A wreath-laying ceremony for all branches of the military
Dusk Monday: A candlelight vigil at the closing ceremony for the Moving Wall
On Friday morning, he and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Sammy Lee Davis were on hand for the opening ceremonies for The Moving Wall outside West Aurora High School. The wall includes the names of all the members of the American armed forces who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.
Lynch, of Chicago, said his emotions never run dry when visiting the monument.
"Every time I see that wall it's kind of a touching moment. It reminds me that I can do things that they can't. I can hold my grandchildren now ... they can't do that. I can grow old with my wife and we can say goodbye to each other when the time comes. They can't do that," Lynch said. "I could experience the joy of holding my grandbabies when they were born. They can't do any of that. They're not here."
Lynch wasn't the only one struggling with his emotions during Friday's observances at the wall, which will remain on display through Veterans Day.
The tissues all came out when members of the committee that brought the traveling monument to Aurora began reading the names of the 18 men from the city whose names are etched on the wall.
Aurora residents Paul and Linnea Lesnick, self-proclaimed patriots, made note of the location of each of the local men's names and made it a point to touch them all.
Tears and makeup rolling under her sunglasses, Linnea Lesnick managed a smile in one of the morning's lighter moments.
"They have benches and lights and a heated tent and that's all nice," she said. "But they need a trough to catch all these tears. There's not a person here who hasn't cried in the last 24 hours."
Air Force veteran Judith Brown, who served from 1957 to 1960, was responsible for typing battlefield orders during the Vietnam War. She called Friday's ceremony the most emotional she's ever attended.
"I'm a wreck. This was so beautiful. I cried all morning," she said. "I knew men on that wall and I'm here for them. I'm also here for every veteran who couldn't be here."
The Moving Wall, a three-fifths replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was escorted Thursday by hundreds of motorcycle riders to the practice soccer fields at West Aurora High School.
Also on display are the Illinois Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial, a model of the World War II memorial and Aurora's Healing Field of Honor, which features 2,013 flags.
Scheduled activities continue through the weekend with a 2 p.m. Saturday recognition of local Gold Star families and a nondenominational service at 10 a.m. Sunday.