Moving Wall comes to Pierce County
It's safe to say American soldiers, upon arriving home from Vietnam, weren't too willing to talk about their experiences.
"You'd be hard-pressed to get any veteran to talk about their war stories," said Ron Cleveland, Past President of the local Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 331. "The public didn't ask and we didn't talk.
"We never got the recognition for our service."
David Fuller, another Vietnam vet, recalled that, when he got off the plane in Oakland, Calif., his group was called baby killers and stuff was thrown on them.
The pendulum started to swing the other way, thanks to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., which opened in 1982 and, a couple years later, when three former veterans came up with the idea of a portable Moving Wall so those unable to visit the memorial could see the sacrifice the Vietnam soldiers made for their country.
This past week, the Wall came to Pierce County for the first time at the Gas-Lite in the Town of Trimbelle.
"This isn't about us," said current Chapter 331 President Wayne Boyd during Thursday's opening ceremony. "This is about those behind us (pointing to the Wall, on which over 58,000 soldiers are named); they gave their lives for us."
Added Jim Ottman, fellow 331 member: "To visit the Wall is an American, human and loving experience because there's no greater gift than sacrificing your life for another."
The Wall came into the county Wednesday morning via a motorcycle escort, thanks to members of the Wisconsin Patriot Riders along with other groups.
"You don't have to be a veteran," said Patriot Riders President Rocci Stucci. "Our only stipulation is that you have to have the heart and appreciation for our soldiers."
One of the key mottos of Vietnam veterans is "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another," which was emphasized by keynote speaker Dave Zien during Thursday's ceremony.
"We will never forget those individual heroes on that wall," the former state senator and Vietnam veteran said. "We will never forget."
During the five days the Wall was here, visitors also got the opportunity to tour a huey helicopter, which was used to transport Vietnam troops in and out of battle, along with providing fire guard protection, and also visit the Vietnam museum which contained artifacts and memorabilia about the war.
Other highlights include Saturday morning's release of a POW/MIA hot air balloon over the wall, along with a red, white and blue balloon and a RV-8 flyover from Tom Irlbeck.
All that aside, the mission which was accomplished was to say thanks to those who served.