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THE Wall Has Arrived

by Janet Nesler

The Daily Independent, Ashland, Kentucky

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More than 200 people braved the early morning cold to attend an emotional ceremony held at Tracy Park in Portsmouth on November 4 to officially open the public exhibit of the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall.

Featured speaker for the opening ceremony was David Aldstsdt, Director of the Governor's Office of Veterans Affairs who is a Vietnam Veteran. In a moving speech Aldstsdt reminded the audience that the Vietnam war was the nation's longest and most costly war. He said the U.S. Government was fighting both a military war in Asia and a war of words in America.

There were very few dry eyes in the crowd when the voice of Danny Ratcliff echoed across the park with a stirring rendition of "The Wall". A number of wreaths were placed near the center of the wall by veterans and also by a representative of U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland. The ceremony ended with the playing of taps.

"It took two and a half years to get the Vietnam Moving Wall to Scioto county," said Dan Sissel, director of the Scioto County Veterans Service commission. "It is usually booked up for a year in advance. We could have gotten it sooner if we had taken just any date, but we wanted it around Veterans Day. I am a Vietnam veteran myself and I had heard about the wall so I contacted James Devitt in California and got us on the list."

The Vietnam Moving Wall was brought to Portsmouth through the sponsorship of the Scioto County Veterans Service Commission, American Legion James Dickey Post 23 and Sons of American Legion Squadron 30.

The idea of the wall grew out of discussions by John Devitt, Gerry Haver and Norris Shears all Vietnam veterans from California as to how they could somehow "keep alive" and share
the power and good that Devitt had experienced while attending the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. So many people never get the opportunity to see the memorial or experience its power. To get started without delay the three men pooled their own personal funds, which totaled $2,500 and the wall was finished by contributions from the public. The Moving Wall is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Construction began in February 1983 and it was completed on October 15, 1984. The wall was built and is maintained by Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd in San Jose, CA.

The Moving Wall is composed of black polished granite panels which give a mirror©like finish and contains 74 separate frames, each containing two silk-screened panels, and is more than 252 feet overall and is almost half the length of the original memorial in Washington.

Tim Swearingen from Texas has been transporting the wall in recent months. He also oversees the erecting and taking down of the wall. He arrived in Portsmouth from New York and will be
taking the wall to its home base in San Jose, California.

"The community has been involved in this viewing," said Sissel, "Larry Calvert on behalf of the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club donated an army mess tent to be used as an office where
information can be obtained about location of names and help to find them. The members of the Motorcycle Club even came and put it up for us."

"There is 24 hour security for the wall, we asked Jim Sutterfield and John Steele to handle the security and recruit volunteers to guard the wall and we have at least 60 to 80 people to do the job in shifts. The wall is fragile and there are still people who would do damage to it. The Vietnam war is still such a controversial thing that damage could be done out of anger."

The Vietnam Moving Wall contains 58,209 names of men who lost their lives or remain missing in action as of last May. 31 of these names are men from Scioto County.

The artifacts left by friends and loved ones at the Moving Wall are Collected, boxed, and marked at each location then taken back to San Jose, CA. They are temporarily stored in the Memorial Fund's warehouse/office complex. When the Moving Wall has fulfilled the needs for which it was created, a permanent site will be developed, landscaped as in Washington. A museum will be built at the site, and all the artifacts that have been left at the Moving Wall will be displayed in glass cases below each state flag where the wall visited.

For many people who may never make it to Washington DC to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial this is a rare opportunity to visit the Moving Wall, find a measure of healing, leave a token of love and find a sense of closure.

The Vietnam Moving Wall will be on display at Tracy Park in Portsmouth until late November 11. It will then be transported back to California.

Any questions about the Vietnam Moving Wall can be answered by writing: Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd.

ATTN: Memorial Fund
1267 Alma Court
San Jose, CA 95112

 

 

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