Vietnam traveling wall headed to Ohio
By Joe Mizer
Pictured left: Tom Burke shows a video of the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Wall
Although the Traveling Wall is coming to Tuscarawas County, Ohio in 2006, organizers are seeking help right now.
The American Veterans Traveling Tribute, also known as the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Wall, will be set up at the Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds at Dover from June 6 through June 12, 2006.
Tom Burke, president of Chapter 857, Vietnam Veterans of America, made the announcement in an emotional plea for assistance Friday night to groups of veterans and community leaders at New Philadelphia VFW Post 1445.
Burke said the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at Washington, D.C., that will visit the area is the largest replica ever built. He said it is 360 feet in length, some 60 feet wide and eight feet tall at its center.
The Traveling Wall contains the names of all 58,263 men and women who died in the Vietnam War, Burke said. He said the replica is the brainchild of Don Pennington, a Vietnam combat veteran, and its construction was completed in 1998.
The exhibit will cost $6,000 initially, plus whatever else will be required to feed volunteers, provide security, tents and landscaping.
Burke, who said his organization is at T minus 545 days and counting,
estimates his organization will have to raise about $15,000 to $20,000 for the exhibit.
We would be most grateful to any of our citizens or corporate entities, who are in a position to do so, to help in any way to defray the cost, he said.
Burke’s plea was met Friday night with offers of money, assistance and support from those assembled.
Dee Grossman-Tasker, executive director of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, kicked off the financial support with a pledge of $1,000 and a challenge to match the offer.
Burke said a similar exhibit in Carroll County several years ago drew about 200,000 visitors and Grossman-Tasker is hopeful at least that many or more will attend the exhibit in Tuscarawas County.
The idea of bringing the wall exhibit to Tuscarawas County began as a conversation between two members of his chapter about five years ago, Burke said.
In 2002, the chapter decided to try, and after 2 1/2 years of making applications and sending letters, it received a letter. The letter stated that our efforts had finally paid off, Burke said.
Burke said Vietnam veterans were unique in their American experience for when they returned home they arrived at a nation that did not greet them, nor treat them in a manner befitting their sacrifices.
American veterans of the Vietnam War were vilified and often portrayed as colossal misfits three beers short of a six-pack, subject to drug addiction, homicides and suicide, Burke said.
However, history has proven that most returned home and melded to jobs, family and productive lives, he added.
The wall, he said, has provided the nation with a memorial that heals.
The Wall speaks to fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and many others whose names appear on the Wall.
Quoting Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund, Burke said: The Wall transcends the Vietnam War and helps our nation renew its relationship with all veterans of all wars. The Wall allows those heroes enshrined on the Memorial to return home to be among their own friends, family and peace of familiar surroundings.
After the meeting, Burke said he was pleased and surprised by the initial turnout and the support already pledged.
That’s amazing, he said. I didn’t really expect anything this evening, but it’s great. It really shows some real support in the community.
Anyone wishing to send money or offer assistance can contact Larry R. Clawson, secretary of Chapter 857, at 947 Maple Ave. NW, New Philadelphia, O. 44663, or by telephone at (330) 339-6864.
Checks should be made to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.