Every Memorial Day, Americans gather at veteran and war memorials across the country to pay their respects to the men and women who died while serving their country in the U.S. Armed Forces. A version of one of those iconic memorials is making its way to Champaign County.
The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be on display June 9-13 in front of the former armory in Urbana at 1412 N. Main St.
The 252-foot mobile replica exhibit, created as a result of Vietnam veteran John Devitt’s desire to bring the wall to individuals unable to travel to the nation’s capital, has been traveling across the country since 1984.
The Moving Wall’s journey to Urbana came about during preparations for the upcoming Military Appreciation Day at Grimes Field. When organizers learned of the exhibit’s availability for the June 11 event, they set out in search of a financial sponsor to bring the exhibit to Urbana, and they didn’t have to look far.
“The Grimes Foundation is providing the funding to bring the wall to us,” said Urbana resident and Vietnam War veteran (U.S. Navy) David Brandeberry, local coordinator for The Moving Wall. “While the Grimes Foundation is our primary sponsor, there have been numerous businesses and individuals who have donated money for materials for the setup of the wall and landscaping, and we are thankful for that.”
Wall details, volunteers sought
The Moving Wall is expected to arrive at the Champaign County Community Center, 1512 S. U.S. Route 68, the morning of June 9. At 10 a.m., a parade will escort the exhibit north up U.S. Route 68 to the old armory, where a brief welcoming ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m.
Airport Manager Lou Driever said local veterans organizations will gather to assemble the exhibit following the ceremony.
The Moving Wall will open to the public following an opening ceremony set for 5 p.m. on June 9 and remain open 24/7 until 5 p.m. on June 13.
“It will be lighted and secured 24 hours a day by members of the local VFW, American Legion, AMVETS and DAV, so people can visit at any time they want,” Brandeberry said.
To coordinate an event of this magnitude, Brandeberry is relying on the support of local veterans groups and any other individuals willing to lend a hand.
“We are seeking community involvement as much as possible,” he said. “We have many opportunities for any individuals or groups to contact us for some type of volunteer service with the wall because it takes a lot of people to cover it.
“We will have an information tent with books for visitors to look up the name and location of the veteran they are searching for. It’s going to take a lot of people,” Brandeberry added.
The local VFW and DAV women auxiliaries committed to volunteering in the information booth as has the Urbana Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Driever said.
In addition to the information tent, veterans visiting the exhibit can meet with representatives from the Dayton VA Medical Center, the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, and Honor Flight Dayton.
Closing ceremony, ongoing fundraising efforts
Before The Moving Wall exhibit comes down and heads to its next stop in Spencerport, New York, local organizers have planned a farewell ceremony slated for 5 p.m. on June 13.
Kerry Brugger, director of administration for the city of Urbana, will open the closing ceremony will a brief speech, and Matt Lee, parochial vicar at the St. Mary Catholic Church in Urbana, will offer the benediction. State Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) of the 85th House District is also scheduled to speak and will pay honor to the 10 Champaign County residents who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
“The closing event will also feature a flyby, the playing of ‘Retreat’ by Eric Beverly (Urbana firefighter/paramedic) and a volley by the American Legion firing team,” Driever said. “This will be a great opportunity to honor our veterans.”
While the sponsorship costs for bringing The Moving Wall exhibit to Urbana are being covered by the Grimes Foundation, Driever said, there are ancillary expenses involved. To help cover these costs, organizers have set up a fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/2wfa6cmk.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.