BY KATIE MATTESON
The Vietnam War officially ended with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975 and the last American soldier killed during the 20-year war was PFC Kelton Turner on May 15, 1975. His name is among the 58,318 names listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial erected in 1982 in Washington, D.C.
When John Devitt attended the dedication of the memorial, he felt the positive power of the wall and vowed to share that experience with those who did not have the opportunity to go to Washington.
Devitt, along with other Vietnam veteran volunteers, built The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the memorial and displayed it for the first time in Tyler, Texas in October 1984.
The 252-foot Moving Wall has made over 1,200 visits all of the United States and is returning to Racine for the third time to celebrate its 35th Anniversary.
“They were so impressed with us when we hosted it in 2005 and 2015, they invited us to host it again for the special anniversary,” said Pat Adams, event chair and member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 767.
The Moving Wall will return to Pritchard Park from May 16-20.
After three days of set up, the display will open to the public at noon on Thursday, May 16 and stay open continuously until Monday, May 20 at 3:30 p.m.
Opening ceremonies will take place on Friday, May 17, beginning with a concert by the Belle City Brassworks at 4 p.m. followed by a ceremony featuring a color guard, singing of the national anthem by Billy Contreras, invocation by Linda McClanahan OP, guest speaker Major General Donald Dunbar, presentation of wreaths and reading of the 47 Racine County names, followed by a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.” A motorcycle parade from The Nash to the wall will begin at 4 p.m., with motorcycles expected to begin arriving at the park at 4:15 p.m.
On Saturday, May 18, presentation of the “Quilts of Honor” will take place at noon and a mass is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
A non-denominational service will take place on Sunday, May 19 at 9 a.m.
Closing ceremonies will begin with a concert by the Gilmore Fine Arts Choirs beginning at 12:30 p.m., followed by a ceremony featuring singing of the national anthem by Bill Contreras, guest speaker Brig. Gen. (R) Dominic Cariello, “Mansion of the Lords.” “Reflections,” benediction by Linda McClanahan OP, POW-MIA Remembrance Table, Battlefield Cross, Echo Taps, Firing Squad and Retiring of Colors.
Throughout the event, volunteers will staff a 30 x 60 tent with six computers to help visitors find the names of soldiers on the wall. The tent will also display an exhibit from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, as well as Kenosha military historian Carl Bogart’s traveling display.
Adams said that the local Vietnam vets are taking on the huge job of hosting the Moving Wall once again in order to promote education about the war and make people more aware of its history.
In addition to Adams, other officers of the organizing group include Tom Banner (logistics), Jon Rybar (finance and administration), Tom Friedel, (liaison), Jim Campbell (operations), Bill Thornton (safety and security), Judy Rasmussen (landscaping), Don Heck (education) and Ellen Myers (volunteers).
The group is seeking volunteers to help with set up and take down, security, computers and wall docents. To volunteer, call Myers at (262) 638-8705.
Other sponsoring organization include Real Racine, SC Johnson and Racine Community Foundation.
Donations can be sent to: Moving Wall 2019, P.O. Box 081036, Racine WI 53408-1036. Donations are tax-deductible.