A traveling tribute to the U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives during the Vietnam War made its way through Urbana on Thursday accompanied by various motorcycle clubs, military vehicles and local public service vehicles.
The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., arrived at the Champaign County Community Center on South U.S. Route 68 Thursday morning before being escorted 2.7 miles up Main Street to the former armory at 1412 N. Main St.
Champaign County Veterans Service Officer Buzzy L. Moore, a Desert Storm Army veteran, served as grand marshal of the parade and also spoke to the veterans and civilians who gathered at the former armory to help assemble the traveling wall, which contains the names of 58,000-plus fallen heroes, including 10 from Champaign County.
During his speech, Moore honored those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by reciting various mottoes and slogans of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard.
Grimes Field Manager Lou Driever, a U.S. Army veteran, added, “We are glad to be able to welcome the wall to town.”
The 252-foot long exhibit, which was created by Vietnam veteran John Devitt and has been traveling across the country since 1984, opened for public viewing at 5 p.m. Thursday and will remain open 24/7 until 5 p.m. on Monday, June 13.
Vietnam War Navy veteran David Brandeberry, who is serving as the local coordinator for The Moving Wall, said the exhibit will be lighted and guarded 24 hours a day.
The Moving Wall’s five-day stop in Urbana is being sponsored by the Grimes Foundation. Additional materials needed to bring the exhibit to town were paid for or donated by “numerous businesses and individuals,” Brandeberry said.
Honoring U.S. servicemen, servicewomen
The second annual Military Appreciation Day will take place on Saturday right next door to The Moving Wall exhibit at Grimes Field.
Admission to the day-long event – co-sponsored by DAV Chapter 31 and VFW Post 5451 – is free, but donations are welcome.
Prior to the gates opening at 9 a.m., the Champaign County Pilots Association’s 30th annual Pancake Breakfast will take place from 7 to 11 a.m. in the Champaign Aviation Museum at the airport, while the Military Appreciation 5K will begin at 8:15 a.m. There is a $25 fee to enter the 5K, which will take place inside the airport gates.
As for Military Appreciation Day activities, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) will kick off the event as guest speaker during the opening ceremony set for 10 a.m.
According to Driever, this year’s event, weather permitting, will feature over 40 military vehicles, two dozen fixed-wing aircraft and roughly a dozen helicopters.
Also scheduled to be on hand are aircraft from seven educational institutions, more than a dozen museums, and representatives from federal, state and local veterans organizations.
Scheduled entertainment includes a USO show by The Average Wright Band at noon (Grimes Hangar), a parachute jump at noon, and a performance by the Ohio Valley British Brass Band at 3 p.m. (Grimes Hangar).
To accommodate eventgoers wishing to make a day of it, several food vendors and a beer garden will be available.
A closing ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. and will feature a flyby, a volley by the American Legion firing squad and the playing of “Taps.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.