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Published Oct. 29, 2008

They fought together in Vietnam, but now two veterans groups are battling with each other over a symbol both deeply respect - the Vietnam wall.

Some of the former troops are grandparents now, but they can still hold their ground. It comes down to this: on one side a veterans group based in Michigan, on the other, a Florida group.

Both have built replicas of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington: Michigan's two walls constructed more than a decade ago and Florida's unveiled last year. In the past few months, however, the groups have fired volleys of e-mails over a trademark dispute and threatened each other with legal action.

The Michigan-based Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd. says Florida's group has used its name, "the Moving Wall," on a commemorative coin it sold and on other literature. The Florida group, Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard, says any use was a mistake and has stopped selling the coins. Both groups agree only on that they're trying to honor the same 58,000 names.

So why not just settle the conflict? It's not that easy, the groups say.

"They're using our name to make money. That's desecration of the name of every man and woman on the wall," said Channing Prothro of Vietnam Combat Veterans. On behalf of the group, he's demanded a return of some of the Florida group's profits.

Ken Baker, a past president of the Brevard group, says only about $600 was made from the coin and calls the conflict "a shame."

The pair of walls aren't the only ones traveling the country. A half-scale version called the Wall That Heals is managed by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit group that built the Washington wall. A company that sells funeral services sets up its Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall in cemeteries. And another organization, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, includes a wall with several memorials to American soldiers.

Veterans in Florida have been able to visit a traveling wall during their annual reunion for almost two decades. By tradition, some of the same people help set it up every year, carrying wall panels that contain names of people they knew.

Both groups say it shouldn't affect people coming to the various walls, though many attending Florida's reunion know the story. What's important is that people visit, the groups believe.