Memorial replica coming to De Soto
The Moving Vietnam Wall Memorial will come to De Soto's Miller Park for a week this October.
Edwin Hughes, commander of Linden-Tripkos Memorial VFW Post 6654, said the Moving Wall would be at De Soto's Miller Park Oct. 1 through Oct. 8.
The moving wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Hughes said. It was conceived by John Devitt, a former Army helicopter door gunner, after attending the dedication of the Washington memorial in 1982.
Two years later, the Moving Wall built by Devitt and other Vietnam vets, was first displayed in Tyler, Texas. Like the Washington original, the names of the 58,000 American servicemen killed in Vietnam are engraved on the Moving Wall's black tablets.
The Moving Wall and a second replica visit sites throughout the country from February through November.
"We first requested a visit four years ago," Hughes said. "We're very pleased it's coming to De Soto. We want to extend to the local community and surrounding communities to experience the Moving Wall."
The local VFW requested the Moving Wall "anytime it could get it," but its arrival the month before Veterans' Day is special, Hughes said. It is hoped school children can visit the Moving Wall during daytime hours, he said.
"I know the school district is very excited about incorporating the visit into its curriculum," he said. "I'm in the process now of writing other nearby districts."
The post plans to play videos on the Vietnam War in a tent. Branches of the armed forces might also have display tents, he said.
"We don't have a set agenda yet," he said. "We're just getting started."
Hughes explained the visit is a responsibility as well as a privilege. The Moving Wall is basically dropped off to the local post's care. It must arrange 24-honor security for the memorial.
Hughes and other members of the De Soto post stood watch when the Moving Wall's replica visited Tonganoxie several years ago. Hughes said he learned from that experience that the replicas elicit the same emotional response as the Washington original.
"One time my brother and I were standing watch and there was this gentleman kneeling at the wall," Hughes said. "He was kneeling for hours, so we asked him if we could help. He said, 'I don't know their names. I just knew their nicknames.' He had tears in his eyes.
"A lot of veterans come at night."