Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall plans finalized

PARKERSBURG- Organizers finalized the plans and preparations for Tuesday’s arrival of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall at City Park.

The volunteer committee which is planning and coordinating the memorial’s arrival, placement and activities met Thursday evening at City Park to go over remaining details, answer questions and cover concerns.

“You are doing this for a very special reason,” Greg Smith, head of the local committee for the wall, told those assembled. “It is in honor of our veterans, to honor the service of our Vietnam veterans and the service they gave to our country to provide the freedoms we have.”

The committee discussed details from the wall’s arrival at City Park on Tuesday; where volunteers will be placed and how they will help those who visit the memorial; special ceremonies and events while the memorial is at the park; and other concerns.

The wall, which will be transported in sections, is expected to arrive by truck at City Park around 5 p.m. Tuesday. The wall will be met around 3 p.m. at the Fairplains exit along I-77 (Exit 132) by 300-350 motorcyclists with the West Virginia Patriot Guard Memorial Riders and others.

They will ride with and escort the trucks up the interstate and get off at Exit 176 (U.S. 50/Seventh Street), go right onto Seventh Street, then right onto 13th Street, then right on Plum Street, right on Washington Avenue and enter City Park at the Washington Avenue entrance.

There will be a vigil with speakers saying a few works to mark the occasion, Smith said.

Afterward, the Patriot Riders will be invited to the VFW Post in Vienna for chili and refreshments provided by Wendy’s.

On Wednesday at around 8 a.m., volunteers will begin unloading the pieces of the wall and setting up the wall.

“The wall should be set up before noon,” Smith said.

At noon, volunteers should be in place to start receiving visitors.

The first school children with organized visits are expected around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Volunteers will be in place helping out with services at the memorial until 9 p.m.

They will be in place from Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Other volunteers will be on site, around the clock, throughout the wall’s stay at the park, organizers said.

The opening ceremony will be 6 p.m. Thursday with officials such as Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell.

The Marine Corps League of Wood County will present the colors.

“We got a real plumb,” Smith said. “The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and Drill Team out of Washington, D.C. will be participating in the opening ceremony Thursday night.

“It is a big tribute.”

The team serves as ambassadors for the service, showcasing professionally choreographed maneuvers, precise tosses and complex weapon exchanges. Parkersburg City Councilman John Kelly is an alumnus and will introduce them.

“It is a phenomenal patriotic service,” Smith said.

Visits will be conducted Friday through Monday with school groups and others.

“We are reminding everyone that this is a memorial,” Smith said of the certain behavior that is expected of people while there. Students will be instructed by the volunteers before they go to the memorial.

Luminarias honoring the 26 Wood County residents listed on the wall will go up each evening around dusk.

Some people from around the surrounding areas asked why just the people from Wood County were getting the luminarias.

Organizers said that was a logistics decision since Wood County is hosting the wall. Other service members from around the area will be honored in other ways during the wall’s stay at City Park, organizers said of listing in special publications and private ceremonies done at the wall.

Any pictures and other items left at the wall will be preserved and given to the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley after the wall’s visit is concluded.

Any emergency medical needs will be handled with 911 calls and ambulance crews responding to the site.

There will be no food, active cell phones, smoking or pets (with the exception of service animals) permitted around the memorial itself, organizers said.

On Sept. 2, the wall will be taken down by volunteers, put back on the trucks and it will head to Ashburn, Ga., for its next engagement.

Another meeting to discuss how the Traveling Wall’s visit went will be held at the park 6 p.m. Sept. 4.

Smith was appreciative to everyone who gave their time so freely on this event.

“I want to thank you all for your time and your efforts,” he said. “I think next week is going to go well and it is because of all the time you have dedicated to making things like this happen.

“We are a patriotic community and it shows.”