EDEN — The return of the Vietnam Traveling Wall to Eden will be the focal point of a weekend of activities honoring Vietnam Veterans and other war heroes, according to David Turner, Commander of American Legion Post 254.
The post is coordinating the wall under the sponsorship of the City of Eden.
Although activities surrounding the wall begin on Wednesday and continue through the closure of the wall at 3 p.m. on Oct. 17, the highlight of the weekend will be the Heritage & Heroes: A Celebration of Our Nation event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Freedom Park in Eden. They will be in the ballfield parking lot across from wall. This event is sponsored by Armor Express, said Eden’s Marketing and Special Events Manager Cindy Adams.
Headlining the program will be the All American 82nd Airborne Division Band from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Adams said. The band will be “Telling the Army Story” in support of soldiers and their families, community and recruiting initiatives and music education programs.
A number of military vehicles and other exhibits will displayed throughout the day. Children can participate in a number of kids’ activities, and visitors can reminisce with veterans at the Veterans Speaker Tents.
Visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to help fill the Rockingham County Veterans’ Coalition Food Pantry, which provides food to needy veterans and their families year-round.
The DAV Chapter No. 63 will prepare 80 quarts of stew on site. It will be available for $3.75 per pint and $7 per quart.
Five hand-knit lap robes made by longtime veteran supporter Norma Kelly will be raffled with the proceeds being donated to the American Legion Post 254. Four have military branch symbols, and one has “Vet.”
Barbecue, hot dogs, turkey legs, sweet potato pies, funnel cakes and fried Oreos, fresh-squeezed lemonade also will be available.
The trucks bearing the wall will be escorted to Freedom Park from Lowe’s on N.C. 14, starting at 3 p.m. Friday. Residents and groups are invited to drive in the parade but are asked to be in the parking lot by 1:30 p.m. when the lineup process gets underway.
Once it arrives at the park, volunteers from military organizations and other groups will set up the 360-foot wall display, which will open at noon on Thursday.
A special opening ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, featuring music and speakers. Once the display opens, it will remain open to the public 24 hours a day until it closes at 3 p.m. Oct. 17. At that time, a special walk-through will be held for Vietnam Veterans.
Volunteer military personnel will provide 24-hour protection service and the Eden Police Department will have enhanced patrols through the area, Adams said.
This is the second time the Traveling Vietnam Wall has been to Eden. The first was in May of 2013. Several traveling walls are exhibited on a regular basis around the country.
It costs $8,000 to bring the wall to the community, Adams said, noting Eden Tourism sponsors it. The sponsors are also responsible for the housing and meals for the crew that drives the trucks between communities. Other costs involve printing, postage for mass mailings, and many other items.
This wall is 30% larger than the 2013 one, Adams said.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund operates American Veterans Traveling Tribute Traveling Wall.
The wall exhibit, including 14 flags, features a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The replica is 360 feet in length and stands 8 feet high at its tallest point. It is the largest traveling replica of the wall.
“It’s 80% in size and 100% in content,” Adams explained. Visitors experience the wall rising above them as they walk toward its apex, a key feature of the design of the wall in D.C.
A group of at least 15 volunteers will help get the walls in place on Thursday morning, Adams said. Most volunteers are Eden City employees and various veterans’ organization members. Landscaping will complete the transformation into a patriotic display.
For those looking for specific names, a locator tent will be staffed the entire period. After a locator determines what panel a name is on, searchers will be provided with paper and pencils for making rubbings.
Once the display closes, the volunteers will have the task of taking apart the wall and placing it back on the truck.
“This traveling wall is a reminder of the great sacrifices made during the Vietnam War,” said Vietnam veteran Curtis Pearce, who also is chairman of the Rockingham County Veterans Coalition, the Veterans Park in Wentworth and Assistant Commander of the Veterans Honor Guard.
“It helps to heal and rekindle friendships and gives people the opportunity to honor their loved ones in their hometown since they may not be able to make the trip to see the original memorial in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
“It will be something you will never forget and a special opportunity to honor all veterans and their families for the tremendous sacrifices they have made for this country.”