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
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.
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
"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
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