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    The Moving Wall delivers Vietnam Memorial’s legacy to the North Country

    Engineer Soldiers set up moving Vietnam wall

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Paige Behringer | Volunteers from the Association of the United States Army and 41st Engineer Battalion...... read more read more

    SACKETS HARBOR, New York - - The number of fallen service members honored individually, by name, on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is enough to fill every seat in Dodger’s Stadium and form a line to the parking lot 2,000 deep.

    The massive, black, granite structure often referred to as “The Vietnam Wall,” or simply, “The Wall,” has eternally memorialized eight women and more than 58,000 men since its 1982 dedication - only seven years after the Vietnam War ended. One minute of silence observed for each name engraved on The Wall’s near-mirror surface would last around 40 days, or the entirety of Lent.

    People unable to make the journey to the monument in Washington, D.C., can still pay respect to the sea of names, but on a smaller scale. The Moving Wall, a portable, traveling version of the memorial, has roamed the U.S. since 1984, allowing anyone within its vicinity to honor and remember those service members declared dead between 1955 and 1975 while serving in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

    The roughly half-sized, aluminum replica was funded through public contributions and personal investment from some of its creators, who intended to deliver The Vietnam Wall’s legacy across the country on a single truck.

    The local Association of the United States Army chapter requested to sponsor The Moving Wall, which transformed the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site from August 23 to 25, 2019, during its first visit to the North Country in a decade.

    “I think it’s going to impact the community in a lot of different ways,” said Tina Thornton, the AUSA board member who solicited The Moving Wall’s visit. “Obviously we have veterans in our community. It’s going to impact them differently than maybe someone who has never seen The Wall … once they see it and they see the meaning behind it, I think it will be emotional and real for everyone.”

    Motorcyclists with the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association escorted The Moving Wall’s truck into the village, where AUSA volunteers and an honor guard from the 41st Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, were waiting to render honors as it arrived.

    “This is unique for the 41st because we have a long partnership with the village of Sackets Harbor,” said Lt. Col. James Beaulieu, 41st Engineer Battalion commander. “Last year at this time we were … here conducting a helocast and another community engagement, so this is another opportunity for us to come out and contribute to the community.”

    Soldiers from 41st Engineer Battalion spent Friday morning alongside AUSA members assembling The Moving Wall’s 70 panels, and remained on site at Sackets Harbor Battlefield for almost four days while it stayed open to the public 24/7.

    “There (are) veterans (who) fought in Vietnam all over this country that don’t have the opportunity to go the memorial in Washington D.C.,” Beaulieu added. “So it’s a great opportunity for The Wall to come to them to pay their respects.”

    Members of the American Legion Post 1757 hosted an opening ceremony for the community at The Moving Wall display Friday evening, and a memorial ceremony the following day, which included a personal account of the Vietnam era from Col. Michael Plummer, a former 10th MTN DIV chief of staff, and the first ever commander of 2BCT - the “Commando” brigade.

    Plummer described the era as a turbulent time in U.S. history when service members were not appreciated the same way they are in 2019, or even welcomed home from war by the American people. Instead, Plummer remembered Soldiers changing out of their uniforms inside the airport in order to avoid confrontation from spitting protestors, who he said held the military accountable for the government’s actions.

    “The service members on this wall want to know what we have done with what they have given for us,” Plummer asked the audience on behalf of the 58,000 men and eight women who did not make it home.

    Following his question, Plummer and Mennes accompanied a local man, John Hoffman, as he laid a memorial wreath in front of The Moving Wall for his father, Spc. John Fuller.

    The memorial ceremony featured an invocation and benediction from Father Joseph Sesito, retired Navy Capt. and Vietnam veteran, and remarks from Michelle Capone, Northern New York Fort Drum AUSA president, Molly Reilly, Sackets Harbor mayor and Maj. Gen. Brian Mennes, 10th MTN DIV commander.

    The audience was asked to observe a moment of quiet reflection and contemplation as John Condino and Vernon Datoush, both Vietnam veterans, took turns reading the names of the North Country’s 61 men from Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, who are memorialized on The Wall.

    The echo of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” broke the ensuing silence, which was punctuated by the sound of a bugler performing Taps. Many audience members remained in the area after the memorial ceremony, taking pictures or creating traditional rubbing impressions of the slightly embossed screen-printed names from The Moving Wall.

    Matching blue hats identified AUSA volunteers and Soldiers who rotated shifts around the clock throughout the weekend, maintaining a guard presence and helping visitors find names on nearly 253 foot wall.

    “We had a lot of moving parts,” Thornton said. “The village of Sackets Harbor has been amazing support for us … and they have offered just about everything that they can to support the event. They have been an amazing community to work with. Mayor Reilly has gone out of her way to make sure everything came together.”

    One volunteer, Cpl. Alexander Cazares, a 41st Engineer Battalion combat engineer, said the replica may have the same eye opening impact for visitors as seeing the names on The Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., did for him.

    “Like how we are all here together, all those people on The Wall were there together at one time,” Cazares added.

    Some visitors still lingered at sunset Saturday evening as solar lights began illuminating The Moving Wall’s reflective face while the sun dipped below the horizon into the Black River Bay behind it.



    Date Taken: 08.25.2019
    Date Posted: 08.31.2019 15:40
    Story ID: 338074
    Location: SACKETS HARBOR, NY, US 

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