“The Moving Wall” is a half-size replica of the breathtaking Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and has been touring the country for over 30 years. When John Devitt attended the 1982 dedication of the memorial in Washington, he was overcome with the sheer power and awe of the Wall. He vowed to share that experience with those who did not have the opportunity to go to the capital.
John, Norris Shears, Gerry Haver, and other Vietnam veteran volunteers built The Moving Wall. It went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas in October of 1984. Two versions of The Moving Wall now travel the USA from April through November, spending about a week at each site.
The Town of Wilmington had the honor of hosting the Moving Wall in September of 2008 and again in July of 2018. Like it did ten years ago, the Town of Wilmington stood tall and proved once again that it will never forget its fallen heroes.
From the day the Department of Veterans Services was notified of the dates of the Wall, there was an outpouring of support and volunteerism from all corners of the town – citizens, organizations, companies all stepped up to ensure the Wall’s visit would be expertly organized and respectfully observed.
The Ahern Family Charitable Foundation donated the money needed to send with the contract to hold the dates for the planned visit to Wilmington, followed by generous donations made by Nichols Funeral Home, Disabled and Limbless Veterans, VFW Post 2458 Wilmington, American Legion Post 136 Wilmington, Bob and Diana Freeland, John Wallace and Robin Theodos, Jack and Stephanie McCune, Local Heroes and the DAV CH 110.
The Department of Veterans Services reached out to Steve Crampton of Champions Choice in Wilmington regarding t-shirts to sell as a fundraiser to help fund the Wall’s visit. Steve, an act of extreme generosity, offered to donate 400 shirts. Mr. Crampton and Champions Choice have always been great supporters in the past with Wilmington’s sports teams and non-profits, and their generosity surely helped the Moving Wall Committee focus on planning, as opposed to raising funds. A great deal of thanks is owed to Steve Crampton. We reached out to Wilmington High School for the design of the t-shirts, and we received many great designs. The winners were Bryan Saguin, Michael DeLucia and Jason Spizuoco. all of the 2018 class.
When the Wall left the hotel to travel to Wilmington Common on the morning of the 26th, there were over 25 motorcycles representing over seven different MC Clubs, along with the Wilmington Police Department, to make sure the Wall arrived safely. As we drove by the Public Safety building, Wilmington Police and Fire were on the street to render a salute as the Wall drove by.
If you ask the couple that travels with the Wall, they will explain how important the “base” for the Wall to sit on is. It must be straight, solid and the exact measurements. For this task, like we did 10 years ago, the Wall Committee reached out to the Carpenters Union 339 right here in Wilmington and with the help of Fred Hancox of Hancox Kitchens & Construction, they constructed the perfect base to support the Wall for the week. We would also like to thank Mike Welch of Quality Additions & Remolding for donating the wood used to construct the base.
For the lighting of the Wall, we called on the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103 to provide the lighting for the display. Like they did in 2008, they not only supplied the lights for the Wilmington display, the Union donated the lights to Vietnam Combat Veterans Limited so other communities that will host the Wall can use them during their display.
Mahoney’s Garden Center donated the flowers that were used for the Vietnam Ribbon and placed throughout the common, and Walpole Woodworkers donated the benches that also made the display so special. New England Restrooms donated the portable restrooms and Wilmington DPW and Public Building were there right from the start to make sure everything was run correctly.
The Moving Wall not only requires a lot of help planning and set-up, it also requires 24 hour- a-day security. Volunteers are needed to assist the public with finding names of loved ones and to answer any questions they may have regarding the Wall. We would like to thank our four Night Captains, Sean Flynn, Bob Freeland, John Wallace and Rich Hersom for coordinating the hundreds of hours of volunteers and also making sure they were fed and had plenty to drink. We could not have done that without the generosity of Pizza Mia, Piezanos Pizzeria, As Good as it Gets Café, Elia’s Country Store, Quinn Management Inc. (Dunkin Donuts in North Wilmington). We also would like to thank the DAV Auxiliary for donating water, PowerAde, coffee, donuts, sandwiches and pizzas to keep the volunteers fed and hydrated during the very hot weather.
The ceremonies were held every night at 7:00. Each night offered a unique set of remembrances, a beautiful payment of respect to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice – their names forever etched in the Wall. Wilmington High School student Ryann Walsh did an amazing job with our National Anthem on the opening night and Lowell Director of Veterans Services Eric Lamarche also started night two and the final “Welcome Home Ceremony with his beautiful rendition. MA State Trooper Katy Downey sang our National Anthem on our Public Safety Night.
We would also like to thank the Honor Guards from Wilmington Police, Wilmington Fire, M.I.T., U.S. Coast Guard, Massachusetts Army National Guard, USS Constitution and to all the Police Departments thoughout Massachusetts that sent an Honor Guard on our Public Safety Night. The Grand Aces Foundation provided the wonderful flyover on the second night piloted by Wilmington’s own Boston Butters, USAF Retired. Mass State Police Air Wing provided the flyover on the Public Safety Night.
Wilmington resident Ken Meuse and Wilmington Police Officer Butch Alpers played Taps every night with Kevin Fitzgerald and Scruffy Wallace playing the bagpipes made the ceremonies that much more powerful. We would be remiss if we did not send a special thank you to our own Deacon Cliff King.
Deacon King started every ceremony with a few soulful words in an opening prayer, and offered closing prayer to cap each night. He offered words that have resonated long after the Wall’s departure: “Rhe Wall is called the Moving Wall, not only because it travels across the country, but because of all the different ways it moves people.” Thank you Deacon King for your assistance with the Wall and for your service in Vietnam.
We would like to thank all the speakers that again made the ceremonies so very special: Town Manager Jeffery Hull, Greg Bendel of the Wilmington Board of Selectmen, State Representative Ken Gordon, Jorge Lopez, Veterans Liaison, Congressman Seth Moulton’s Office, Secretary of Veterans Services Francisco Urena, Lee Scalzilli, William McKenzie (Vietnam Veterans), and Edmund Mulvehill, Director of Veteran Services in Norwood. Thank you to all the VSO’s and dignitaries from surrounding communities that read the names of their fallen war fighters.
Thank you to WPD Chief Michael Begonis for his assistance, not only running a wonderful ceremony but also with the many hours you spent with the committee, planning the entire visit. Thank you also to Mary and Gary, you know who you are, and we deeply appreciate the many many hours you spent in the office and at the Wall. And a special thank you to Tim Sullivan, US Navy Ret, Silver Star recipient and Ex. POW. Your speech was so very inspiring to so many.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a fitting tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War. As of Memorial Day 2017, 58,318 names are inscribed in the polished black granite walls in Washington, and the Moving Wall gives visitors an opportunity to come and see themselves reflected in the names of the fallen. Many feel compelled to leave offerings. This is where comrades and loved ones bring the weight of their sorrow, while others begin their quest for healing. Wilmington has had the honor to host the Moving Wall twice, and because of the dedication of hundreds of volunteers, we have proven once again that the Town of Wilmington will never forget the men and women that have paid the ultimate sacrifice. We will also never forget the men and women that made it home, and are able to wear the title of Veteran. We apologize if we missed anyone, we deeply appreciate everyone that was involved in making this a truly unforgettable experience.
Patriotism takes many forms. For four summer nights, in the Town of Wilmington, Massachusetts, you could see them all.
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