Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ceremonies to Honor Vietnam Veterans During Moving Wall Visit

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN - Community members will honor Vietnam Veterans during ceremonies while a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will be on display.

By Megan A. Hepler 

On Thursday, May 10th through Monday, May 14th a moving replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will be at the Island Park in Schuylkill Haven. 

John Dewitt, a veteran of the Vietnam War, decided to create a traveling version of the memorial wall after visiting the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, located in Washington, D.C. Since 1984, the mobile memorial has traveled around the country spending days to weeks at a single location. This half-sized copy of the original memorial was the first of its kind. 

It is fitting that a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be arriving in Schuylkill County just over two weeks before Memorial Day. Over 58,000 American troops were killed during the Vietnam War (1954-1975) and many more declared missing. Schuylkill County lost many of its own: four men died en route to the war, thirty-eight killed during, and one missing in action. All of the lives lost will be recognized during the ceremonies that will follow the moving memorial’s arrival. 

John Russell, chairman of the Vietnam Veterans of War Post 29, arranged for the Moving Wall to visit Schuylkill County. It is sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans, with the help of monetary donations from the community. He reported that this will be the third time that the replica has been here; the first time in 1986 and again in 2007. He noted that someone will be available if veterans are seeking information on being buried at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. Each day that the wall is in Schuylkill County ceremonies will be held.

The opening ceremony will begin on Thursday, May 10th at 6:30 PM. Russell explained that local politicians, county commissioners, and state representatives will be in attendance.

On Friday, May 11th at 6:30 PM, the Saint Ambrose and All Saints Choirs will join to sing patriotic songs.

On Saturday, May 12th at 7:00 PM, there will be a Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) ceremony. Henry Tipping, the only veteran from Schuylkill County who was MIA, will be recognized. The event will begin with a wreath laying ceremony, presentation of the colors, a prayer, recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance,” the singing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other patriotic songs. One of Tipping’s family members is expected to attend and will be escorted to the wall during a candlelight ceremony.

On Sunday, May 13th at 2:30 PM, the final ceremony for the Gold Star families will begin, similarly to that of the POW/MIA ceremony. In addition, the four men lost on their way to war will be recognized. The thirty-eight veterans lost during the Vietnam War will also be remembered. Any family members in attendance will be escorted to the wall carrying a picture and a red rose.

Russell said, “names will be read in the order that they were killed.” The Moving Wall is expected to move for its next destination sometime on Monday, May 14th.

Photo Credit:  Jimmie Lu Smallwood

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