Archive for Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Traveling Vietnam Wall opens Tonganoxie tour

September 15, 1999

There are 58,196 names on the Moving Wall, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which will be in Tonganoxie through Sept. 21.

To help visitors find specific names, an information booth will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during each day of the wall's visit to Reusch VFW Memorial Park, 900 E. First.

Opening ceremonies begin at 9:30 a.m. today with the presentation of the colors. At 10 a.m. each day through Tuesday, Sept. 21, opening services will include performances by area high school bands, invocations by ministers and talks by guest speakers. At 4 p.m. each day, "Taps" will be played and the colors withdrawn.

The wall will be open 24 hours a day and visitors are welcome to come at any time, said Dave Hernandez, who helped organize the wall's second visit to Tonganoxie. The memorial made a stop here in October 1996.
When the information booth is open, volunteers will help visitors find names on the wall. The computer program's database also includes nicknames.

Names are listed on the wall in order of the date of death. The wall includes symbols that indicate whether a person was confirmed dead. The list is updated as new information becomes available, Hernandez said.

During daytime hours on weekdays, students from Tonganoxie High School will run the information booth in the park.

Students at Tonganoxie elementary and middle schools will visit the wall during its stay. To help prepare them, they will view a 15-minute video, "The Wall," narrated by LaVar Burton.

Many local citizens and businesses have been involved in bringing the wall to Tonganoxie for its second visit, giving their time and their money. The VFW's cost to bring the wall to Tonganoxie will be about $3,500, said organizer Larry Meadows. Donations made at the site will go directly to those people who are transporting the wall from town to town.

"There are a lot of people who got involved in it last time and are involved in it this time," Hernandez said. "I don't know of a business that hasn't gotten involved."

But of all those who worked toward the project, Hernandez said, one man has been most instrumental.

"Larry Meadows is the guy who made it happen," he said.

Meadows, a Vietnam veteran and chairman of the wall committee, said the wall is meaningful. "It gives us an opportunity to show our respect for those people who lost their lives in Vietnam. I, along with most other veterans, know people who are on the Wall, and when I see that, it has the same effect as going to a cemetery," Meadows said. "But the wall is special because all the people on the wall have something in common."

Meadows said that a lot of Vietnam veterans wait until night, after the crowds have left, to visit the wall. And some can't bring themselves to go at all.

"We have a lot of Vietnam veterans who cannot bring themselves to come down to look at the Wall," Meadows said. "The last time it was here I insisted that one of them come down. He did, and he was thoroughly shelled. He broke down."

Although Hernandez served stateside during the Vietnam War, the conflict had a dramatic effect on him. When asked what the wall meant to him, Hernandez at first was overcome with emotion, unable to talk.

Later he said, "It's my hope that by remembering those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice, future generations will make better decisions about war in the future."

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