Wall proves moving to many
Replica of the Vietnam War Memorial brings crowds to The Nick
|WOLFEBORO POLICE DEPARTMENT dispatcher Mia Lyons, Lt. Dean Rondeau and Officers Greg Cooper and Michael Strauch (r to l) pay their respects to names of the Vietnam War dead inscribed on the Moving Wall on Friday. Elissa Paquette. (click for larger version)|
September 29, 2009WOLFEBORO — A truck carrying the Moving Wall, a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., was escorted down South Main Street at 7 a.m. Thursday morning, Sept. 24, by a somber convoy of idling motorcycles with police cars front and rear.
Members of the Combat Veterans' Association, the Patriot Guard and American Legion riders, among others, waved flags in honor of the Vietnam War dead listed on the 80 shiny black granite veneer panels headed to The Nick on Trotting Track Road for assembly and 24-hour display from Sept. 24 through 27.
Many of the men and women had spent the previous two days preparing the foundation, stretched out in a long V at the far end of the park. With their help, the panels for the half-size version of the memorial were in place from end to end within two hours, ready for a group of Native Americans to perform a purification ceremony.
Men dressed in their formal uniforms from days past, stood tall and practiced maneuvers for the opening ceremony scheduled for 1 p.m., as volunteers wearing black arm bands and reflective vests assisted with parking and milled around near by.
Anna Lord and Sue and Jeff Adjutant, organizers of the event, representing the American Legion Auxiliary and the American Legion, darted from one task to another answering questions as they went.
With the sun high in the sky, Carroll County Deputy Sheriff Paul Bois, flanked by Lord and Sue Adjutant, sang "The Star Spangled Banner" to the assembled crowd. Jeff Adjutant was master of ceremonies, offering thanks to the numerous volunteers and introducing the color guard for a four-gun salute into the bright blue sky.
Wolfeboro Town Manager Dave Owen, former N.H. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and a representative for U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter each spoke, declaring respect and gratitude for the service of the fallen soldiers. Ayotte also drew attention to the Gold Star families who live with loss for a lifetime.
It was a day, the first of four, whose activities would not come to a close until around 8 p.m. following a religious service led by the Rev. Jim Christensen of The First Congregational Church (see poem, "Reflections from the Moving Wall" on page one) and including a community choir led by Toby Twining, the church's minister of music.
All the while, volunteers took turns sitting at a card table under a white awning reading out names of those who are inscribed on the wall, a list of 58,134 war dead, three of whom came from Wolfeboro: Carroll Hersey, Steven Martin and Howard Chamberlin, brother of Harold Chamberlin, who participated in the color guard, and his sister, Carol Clough, who volunteered to read.
Clough said her brother was just 20 when he was killed on Sept. 12, 1967. The Moving Wall brought the memory close.
A veteran, who volunteered from 1 to 7 a.m. the first night for security duty in honor of six friends from sandlot baseball days in South Boston who died in the war, described the lighted wall as peaceful through the night and the sunrise as a beautiful sight.
The next afternoon he returned with his wife and a basket of deep red roses beribboned with "Sons of Boston." They wrote down the location of a fellow friend and soldier's name on the wall from the directory available at the main tent. His wife, tracing a line of imprinted white names with her fingers, suddenly exclaimed, "Here he is! Here he is!" and burst into tears. Her husband touched the name too and stepped back, clearly moved.
She patted her husband's arm and said, "Here's my real Vietnam vet. He came back."
They recalled their town's losses and, the roses set in place, walked slowly away.
People walked forward toward the names throughout the days of memorial. Some held hands, some leaned on canes or pushed a friend in a wheelchair, and some rode in carts driven by volunteers. Kingswood Regional High School teachers brought their social studies students in four trips to connect them with a time in their nation's history.
Others knelt or rubbed paper with soft charcoal pencils until a name appeared, a keepsake for a family album. Police officers came and stood quietly, studying the wall. Names, listed chronologically, reveal who died from the first day of the war to the last, and buddies who died together in battle are close to each other on the wall.
The lists lengthen as the casualties mounted and shorten as they waned, a pictorial of loss. The numbers of people who helped organize the event, cooking food, sitting at the directory table, overseeing parking, reading names and singing, and the numbers of those who came to view the wall shows the power of memory and still present pain, also a need to honor the fallen.
Lord says that after the first day, she went home and cried. She was ever-present throughout the four days, as were the Adjutants. They successfully brought their plans, begun almost a year ago, to life. The wall, also known as the wall that heals, is now in Virginia and will move on to North Carolina next. It's been traveling for 20 years and is still in demand.