Veterans groups to bring Vietnam wall replica to New Richmond
Over five days next fall, local veterans organizations hope to bring thousands of visitors to the City of New Richmond to see a traveling half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.
The Moving Wall, based in White Pine, Mich., has traveled around the country since 1984, and from Sept. 10-14, 2015, it will be in New Richmond, thanks to efforts by local members of New Richmond VFW Post 10818, New Richmond American Legion Butler-Harmon Post 80 and Chapter 331 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
New Richmond VFW Post 10818 Commander Lee Meyer and Dave Green, the post’s past Commander, are both Vietnam combat veterans who lost friends during the war and wanted to bring the traveling memorial to New Richmond to serve all the Vietnam veterans in the surrounding area who haven’t yet experienced it. They also hope the wall can serve as a visual tool to educate today’s children about the war and its human cost.
“We wanted it to be here in September so that the children would be back in school and the children have an opportunity to see the wall,” Meyer said.
Meyer hopes to involve bands from the surrounding area schools to play patriotic songs during programs he is planning for each of the five days.
“We started looking into this about three months ago,” Meyer said. “We do have a committee that’s comprised of four key people: Dave Green representing the VFW Post 10818, Dennis Hurtis representing American Legion Post 80, Jim Ottman representing VVA Chapter 331, and then myself representing Somerset American Legion Post 111.”
The group originally requested the Moving Wall for this summer, but because of a multitude of requests, New Richmond’s date was pushed to 2015, according to Meyer. The four veterans groups are splitting the $10,000 cost to bring the wall to town. So far, each has kicked in enough to start the process and enter into a contract with the Moving Wall. About half the needed funds have already been pledged, and the groups plan to hit up local businesses and individuals for the rest in the coming months.
“Meanwhile, we’ve been gathering ideas of what we can do when we have the wall,” Meyer said. “In talking with the mayor, we’re looking at the dedication of Freedom Park as being the overall umbrella. And then underneath that, we would have the Moving Wall as the main activity. Then there will be other things going on.”
They plan to erect a stage for keynote speakers and a formal program each day. Among other ideas the group has discussed so far are holding the annual VFW car show in conjunction with the Moving Wall event, staging flyovers of multiple types of military aircraft, flights by the POW/MIA hot air balloon, and static displays of all sorts of military vehicles and aircraft.
Meyer said it is important to keep in mind during planning that the area for the Moving Wall will be a solemn and quiet place and that some activities will not be appropriate in that vicinity.
“Keep in mind that it’s a solemn area,” Green said. “We’ve had thoughts of selling food there or maybe some entertainment, but that’s not what this is all about. It’s a sacred and respectable area.”
Meyer said admission to the Moving Wall area will be free for everyone, and locators and volunteers will be available to help visitors find specific names on the panels.
At its June 25 meeting, the New Richmond Park Board discussed some of the logistics the city would have to begin planning soon to get Freedom Park and the surrounding area ready for the event to be successful.
Among the board’s initial concerns were getting the grass ready on the new soccer fields, creating a new entrance to the park from Wall Street, finding an adequate parking area if the fields to the north cannot be used due to the city leasing them for farming, traffic congestion at the Highway 64/Wall Street intersection and more.
The board plans to get information about the Moving Wall from the local veterans groups and from the Moving Wall organization based in White Pine, Mich., so serious logistical planning can take place.