PARKERSBURG - The arrival of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall today will be an event itself.
The three-fifths scale model of the memorial in Washington, D.C., will roll into City Park, in sections, around 5 p.m. today, escorted by Parkersburg police and more than 300 motorcyclists with the Patriot Guard, Legion Riders and others. Folks can gather at the park to welcome them or watch along the route, not unlike a parade, said Greg Smith, chairman of the volunteer group organizing activities for the wall's display.
"I would just be anywhere along the route," he said. "You can watch them all come in through the Washington Avenue entrance of City Park."
Terry Wittekind, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1971-72, stands in front of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall during its 2011 stop in Parkersburg. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
The motorcyclists will meet up with the wall transport at the Fairplain exit of Interstate 77 in Jackson County. Around 3:45 p.m., they will get back on I-77 and head north.
When they reach Parkersburg, the procession will take the U.S. 50/Seventh Street exit. They'll turn right onto Seventh and pass under a massive American flag that will be suspended over the road between Parkersburg and Vienna fire trucks near Superior Toyota.
From there, the route will go to 13th Street, then Plum Street and on to Washington Avenue.
"And then (they're) taking Washington Avenue all the way into City Park," said Shawn Healy, veterans advocate at West Virginia University at Parkersburg and a member of the volunteer committee.
Healy, Smith and Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell will be at the park to welcome the procession. The motorcycle riders will then go to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8127 for sandwiches provided by the post and chili and other refreshments donated by Wendy's.
Volunteers from the West Virginia Army National Guard 1092nd Engineer Battalion and area football teams will start assembling the wall Wednesday morning.
Other volunteers will be on hand to assist people in locating names and making rubbings later in the day.
"It's going to be manned and open starting at 1 o'clock Wednesday afternoon," Smith said.
Volunteers will be present from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. Thursday through Monday. People can also go to the wall outside of those hours, as it will be monitored around the clock, although there won't be as many people to assist visitors.
The opening ceremony is slated for 6 p.m. Thursday and will feature a performance by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and Drill Team.
"That's going to be a great show," Healy said.
An ecumenical worship service to honor veterans is planned for 4 p.m. Sunday. The wall will be taken down and move on to its next destination Tuesday.