The Moving Wall allows those unable to trek to Washington, D.C. to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial an opportunity to see and touch it in their own community.
On Thursday, July 27, The Moving Wall rolled into Houston, Minn., for the second time in 19 years. The Houston American Legion Post 423 first brought the wall to Houston in 2004. Legion member John Geiwitz estimates that there were approximately 20,000 visitors who paid their respects in 2004.
It seems fitting to sponsor the wall this year because 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement ending the U.S. military’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Veteran John Devitt explained, “Well, in 1982, I had a chance to go to the dedication of the wall in D.C. When I did, I really was not expecting it to have any effect. But once I got there. It was like, Woooo! I was from California at the time, and I knew so many guys that could not get there. So, we tried to think of some way to share it somehow, and this is the idea, make a smaller replica. It turned out. When we started out, it took us almost two years to make the first one. We did all the work. We still do all the work. It took us almost two years. It was hard to get people interested in it because it is a visual impact. You have to see it! People would come to the shop and see some of the panels we had done, but they were individual panels. Not two hundred feet worth of names, you know.”
According to the non-profit Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd website, Devitt, Norris Shears, Gerry Haver, and other Vietnam veteran volunteers built The Moving Wall. The wall was displayed for the first time in Tyler, Texas, in October 1984 and has traveled to all 50 states since that first stop. Devitt estimates that there have been over 1,200 stops.
The moving wall is half the size of the monument in Washington, D.C. The aluminum panels are painted shiny black, giving the wall a mirror-like finish, and giving viewers the illusion that you are one with the wall.
The group built a second wall and then a third wall. Devitt explained, “The communities go to so much effort, we built a third one for backup in case something happened on the way and could not reach its destination. But there were so many requests we put it on the road. But three on the road was just too much. The logistics were time consuming, so we took it off the road and now just do the two.”
A committee of six from the Houston American Legion Post 423 and the Ladies Auxiliary, led by Lyle Ellis, wass responsible for bringing The Moving Wall to Houston in 2004 and again this year. It costs over $7,000 to get the wall to a community, and is sponsored by community businesses, organizations and individuals. Monetary donations for The Moving Wall Fund are being accepted at the Rushford State Bank in Houston.
“Every place is kind of the same, but different. Every community does something that makes it special to them,” said Devitt.
At the display in Houston, eight white crosses, one for Robert Tschumper, La Crescent; Jerry Johnson, Rushford; Bill Quillen, Hokah; Robert Wennes, Spring Grove; Roger Lewis, Caledonia; Kevin Goodno, Spring Grove; Dwaine Brickman, Brownsville; and Robert Sires, Spring Grove who gave the ultimate sacrifice are placed in front of the wall.
The 252.83-foot wall was constructed in Trailhead Park, providing a scenic, serene environment for visitors to sit and reflect on the over 58,000 names inscribed on 74 frames. Flags and red, white and blue wreaths adorned the field, creating a moving outdoor display.
Visitors can not only see and touch the monuments, visitors place mementos and take rubbings of the names. Volunteers are on hand to help friends and family members find the names of their loved ones and friends.
For more information on the wall, visit http://www.TheMovingWall.org.