Vietnam Memorial replica in place
MILTON -- Organizers of the annual West Virginia Pumpkin Festival are honoring veterans of the U.S. armed forces this year and have secured a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be on display during this weekend's festival.
The Wall That Heals, which was unveiled on Veterans Day in 1996, has visited more than 350 communities throughout the nation with its goal of allowing veterans and loved ones a chance for their own healing and closure.
The memorial made its way to town Tuesday, escorted by members of the U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Club's Huntington chapter and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
T.L. Calhoun, the road captain who led the group of bikers, said it was an honor to ensure its safe arrival at the Pumpkin Park in Milton.
"I hope people take this and learn," said Calhoun, who spent six years in the Army right after the Vietnam War. "The wall is for the lost brothers we haven't gotten back."
The Wall That Heals exhibition features a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is approximately 250 feet in length, and, like the original memorial, is erected in a chevron shape. There are more than 58,000 names on the wall.
The trailer which carries the wall serves as a mobile museum and contains display cases containing photos of service members whose names are on the wall. There also is a map of Vietnam and a chronological overview of the conflict in Vietnam.
Dave Vititoe, vice president of the pumpkin festival and chairman of the special events committee, said festival organizers have worked nearly two years to get The Wall That Heals to town. He said he is especially excited to know that about 5,000 elementary students will be able to see and learn about it on Thursday and Friday during kids' days.
"We can put this on their minds that the Vietnam War is something other than what they heard their grandmother or grandfather talk about," Vititoe said.
The memorial is set up at the bottom of the hill where the kids usually pick out and decorate their pumpkins. The hillside itself is decorated with about 256 American flags that were part of the Healing Field display at Spring Hill Cemetery during the anniversary of Sept. 11.
The memorial will remain open following the closure of the Pumpkin Festival at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, Vititoe said. He said at 8 p.m., the gates will reopen, and people who want to come in and search for a name or find some personal peace can do so. It will remain open throughout the night until noon Monday.