Municipal Spotlight: The Wall That Heals Is on Its Way to Bellingham Aug. 22–25
Aug 01, 2019 06:30PM
● By Pamela Johnson
written by KEN HAMWEY, Contributing Writer
A three-quarter replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC (pictured right), will be on display in Bellingham August 22-25 as part of the town’s 300th anniversary celebration. On Aug. 20, a motorcycle parade will escort a truck transporting the wall, which is scheduled to be set up at the field between the Middle School and the artificial turf field. Thirty-five volunteers will need 6-8 hours to complete the set-up task.
The wall comprises 144 panels made of synthetic granite supported by aluminum framing. When the wall is completed, the exhibit will span 375 feet, and its tallest point will be 7 1/2 feet. More than 58,000 names are engraved on the replica with LED lighting along the top of the wall to ensure day-and-night reading.
The exhibit will be open 24 hours a day and, once the wall is erected, the truck that transported the panels will evolve into a mobile education center. The exterior of the trailer features a timeline of the war and the wall and offers more information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.
“It’s an honor to be part of this experience and to remember the service and sacrifice of our fallen warriors from the Vietnam War,” said Jim Hastings, who has served as the chairman of Bellingham’s Memorial Day and Veterans Day Committee for 14 years. “ It would be great if residents could take time and line up along Rte. 126 to welcome The Wall That Heals to Bellingham.”
The replica will leave Wayland High School at 3 pm on Aug. 20, and Hastings suggests that residents interested in viewing the procession be on Rte. 126 at 3:30 pm.
Every day at 8 am during the event there will be reveille, the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. From Thursday through Saturday at 5 pm there will be a ceremony that includes the presentation of colors, the National Anthem, a variety of speakers and the benediction. On Aug. 22, Ayla Brown, the daughter of former U.S. Senator Scott Brown, will sing the National Anthem.
Opening night speakers will include State Secretary of Veterans Affairs Francisco Urena; Brig. General Thomas Draude, USMC Ret., a 32-year Marine veteran; and several other officers. The second night (Aug. 23) will be dedicated to Gold Star families (those who have lost a family member in battle). The keynote speaker will be Keith Jackson, the State VFW Commander. On Aug. 24, veterans who wish to share stories of their military experience will be featured. The keynote speaker will be Debora Olson, the Commander of the Disabled American Veterans.
On the last day of the display, Sunday, Aug. 25, a closing ceremony will be conducted and will conclude at 3 pm, when the wall will be dismantled and eventually move on to New York and Pennsylvania.
During the four-day display, a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter will be on site, and pencils and paper will be available to make a name rubbing as a remembrance of a friend or family member. A program detailing the schedule of events will also be available, and a veterans outreach committee will be on hand to offer assistance.
At Bulletin deadline, Hastings had about 100 volunteers to assist with the event. Many of them will be covering four-hour shifts and many will perform added duties daily. If anyone is interested in volunteering, sign up at www.twthbellingham.org and go to the volunteer link.
Hastings (left), who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 with a Marine Rifle Company, expects not only Bellingham residents to attend, but also visitors from surrounding towns. “We’re hoping to see close to 10,000 people during the four days,” he said, “And I want to thank the 300th Anniversary Committee for helping to make this event possible.”
The 72-year-old Hastings, who’s been to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, 30 times, worked diligently to bring the replica to his hometown. He’s thought about this venture for two decades. “Applications to bring the wall to a specific city or town have to be completed on line,” he said. “We applied for it last year but were turned down. When I mentioned that Bellingham was celebrating its 300th- year anniversary, that was a good selling point. Only 33 cities and towns get the display each year.”
The replica, which is managed and maintained by the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Fund, has been to more than 600 communities since its unveiling in 1996. The traveling exhibit honors the three million Americans who served in the Vietnam War. Nearly 400,000 people visited The Wall That Heals last year.