Moving Wall

Story & Photos by Maj Herb Porter   -   Posted Mar, 2001


Under clear, Summer skies, the visiting monument was well received

Few of our nation's monuments have had the impact of the Vietnam Memorial, better known simply as "The Wall".  Its polished black surface reflects the visitor as it tells the story of a war through the names of those who were lost there.

This past Summer, a moving version of this popular monument made its way to Washington, and the Washington Air National Guard was there to help with communications and logistics.

 

Young and old, alike, were captivated by the power of the structure

The Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC draws veterans, their families, friends and loved ones from across the country by the hundreds of thousands each year.  Others come, as well, simply curious to know more of the martial and emotional conflict that gripped our nation for so long.  Young and old, they come to see "The Wall".

Last Summer the mobile version of the now famous memorial came to our state.     

Numerous agencies, organizations and private individuals showed their support for the Moving Wall during its recent statewide tour.  In Whatcom County alone, nearly 50 organizations and agencies donated time, labor, materials and manpower, to ensure that its presentation at Hovander Park in Ferndale would be a special and solemn event.

Where ever the monument stops veterans flock to it... to remember... to heal

The event's primary sponsor was the all-female Bellingham Harborview Lions Club.

The Mission statement of the Moving Wall well defines the purpose of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial: "To honor the men and women of the Armed Forces who served in the Vietnam War.  To bring about a deeper appreciation for the loss endured by those individuals during the Vietnam War.  To bring about healing for veterans, families of veterans, and the community."

Based on the outpouring of support and the thousands of people, who visited the Moving Wall, it definitely fulfilled its mission.

 

 

A multi-service color guard was present to render honors

In the town of Ferndale, the weeklong event included ceremonies honoring those who fought during the Vietnam War.  Recognition was given to individual groups including combat veterans of all services; pilots and crews of all services; the Med Evac "Dustoff" helicopter crew; combat medics and medical teams; chaplains; Native American Vietnam veterans; the Vietnam Veterans of Canada; and the people of the Republic of Vietnam who served in the conflict.

Opening ceremonies consisted of a fly-over by jets from Whidbey Island NAS; arrival of U.S. Army helicopters and Vietnam Era combat veterans; and a keynote address by Major General James Livingston, USMC (Ret), a Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient in the Battle of Dai Do, considered one of the bloodiest of the Vietnam War.  In addition, local dignitaries addressed the audience.  Other speaking events during the course of the week included local veterans and representatives of various military and civic groups, with local high school bands providing patriotic music.  The placement and lighting of Luminaries and the playing of "Taps" and bagpipes throughout the park highlighted every evening.     

The Washington Air National Guard offered their services to help the sponsors of the Moving Wall by furnishing valuable logistical and communications support in the set-up of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Air Guardsmen set up a computer network

The 262nd Combat Communications Squadron, Bellingham IAP, used the occasion as a training opportunity for several of its members, providing tactical and local phone connectivity, internet access, and tent and transportation facilities for different functions.  In addition, the Air Guard unit set-up a special facility that housed computer services, whereby civilian volunteers could research databases to locate names on the Moving Wall based on visitor's inquiries.     

The concept of a Moving Wall began as soon as the Permanent Wall in Washington D.C. was dedicated in November 1982.  The idea of a "mobile wall" grew out of several discussions by John Devitt, Gerry Have and Norris Shears, Vietnam veterans from California.  They were concerned with what they could do to somehow "keep alive" and share the power and healing that many Vietnam veterans had experienced while attending the dedication of the original memorial in the nation's capital.  

Computer database helps to locate names on 'The Wall'

Pooling their own personal funds, which totaled $2500, they began construction of the Moving Wall in February 1983.  As contributions were made from those who heard about the Moving Wall, work continued on the project until it was completed in October 1984.  It is approximately half the size of the original memorial in Washington D.C.  All together there are four moving exhibits.  Three travel throughout the United States and one travels internationally to other countries.

The dates on the Moving Wall are listed from 1959 to 1975, though it was later discovered that the first official U.S. casualty, based on Department of Defense statistics was 1957.

Air Guard communications specialist

As of January 2000, there are 58,219 names listed on the memorial. Approximately 1300 of these are POWs and MIAs.  Twelve groups of names have been added since the memorial was dedicated. There are 16 military chaplains listed on the memorial, of which two were awarded the Medal of Honor.  In addition, there are eight women listed, seven of which were U.S. Army nurses and one was an Air Force nurse. There are 1,051 names on the Moving Wall from Washington State.  The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has toured Washington State in previous years.  It was in Langley in South Whidbey Island in 1997, and the following year it visited Chewelah, Spokane and Leavenworth.

- Please visit The Virtual Wall for more information about this extraordinary memorial -