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Moving Vietnam tribute coming

The Moving Wall, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veteran’s tribute in Washington, D.C., is coming to Richmond Hill, June 12-16. Organizers of the local event are banking on help from the community for the event.

Organizing committee member Donald Singleton said the deal was sealed when, on Feb. 19, the local American Legion chapter agreed to join the city of Richmond Hill in sponsoring the event.

"This was a great idea and will be a perfect extension of the veterans monument in J.F. Gregory Park," Mayor Richard Davis said. "I don’t foresee the need for donations and volunteers being a problem as I would hope there are enough people here that would support this unique opportunity to pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We need to always remember them and express our thanks to them and their families."

The replica includes every single one of the over 58,000 names of American soldiers who died in Vietnam. Singleton, a Richmond Hill resident who helped bring the Wall to Savannah in June, said the monument evokes a very emotional scene where folks bring flowers, pictures and other mementos in honor of those whose names are engraved before them. It is over 250 feet long which is half the length of the one in D.C.

He said he knows of two Richmond Hill natives, Harry Lee Boles and Lowry T. Cuthbert, who died in the Vietnam War and would like to hear from people who know of any others from Bryan County in order to mention them in the opening and closing ceremonies of the event. He said Boles was a friend of his that he went to school to and played basketball with at Richmond Hill High School.

The cost of bringing the Wall here is $4,000. $1,500 of that, along with a signed contract, was recently submitted by the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce and Karla Hillen of Richmond Hill Family Counseling Center. Singleton said Hillen is involved because she has counseled many distraught Vietnam vets in the area and is confident the display will wield a strong healing power. Committee member Jan Bass said the Chamber is involved because "besides paying tribute to veterans, the event should see a big increase in sales of local businesses as it should draw a lot of people."

Singleton said there is a huge demand for the Moving Wall and Richmond Hill has been on the waiting list for close to two years now. Hillen said when she and Singleton approached the Mayor Davis and city manager Mike Melton two years ago, they immediately came on board with the concept. She is hoping the event will "promote healing with veterans in our connecting combat vets of today with those of another era. I think it will pull the community closer as well."

Singleton himself pulled a tour of duty in Vietnam from 1966-68 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. He said the Savannah appearance of the display went amazingly smooth and is excited to help bring it to his hometown.

"I can’t wait and I’m ready to do what ever work I need to do for this event," he said. "We would like to make this a community project to show a united support in this city for veterans. I challenge every resident who believes in this cause to call the committee with a date and time that they are available to lend a helping hand."

Both donations and volunteers are needed to pull this event off. Volunteers are needed to help visitors find names on the Wall and answer questions, set up and dismantle, assist in the onsite 24-hour security and a variety of other tasks.

Donations needed are for the $2,500 balance of bringing the event here in addition to numerous supplies from "builders, restaurants, grocery stores – you’d be surprised at all the different things needed to make this event a success," Bass said. "It’s a huge project and we need all the help we can get."

Bass said the city is prohibited from donating taxpayers’ money, but will donate in-kind such as the maintenance of the site, police officers to help with security and various other services. She also said she would like to see participation from all branches of the service as well as local veterans organizations.

The dates of the local Moving Wall appearance coincide with numerous events that should help make it a success, Bass said. Among those are an air show at Fort Stewart, Father’s Day and the uncasing of the colors for General Lynch to come back to Fort Stewart.

To send a tax-empt donation, make checks out to The Moving Wall, PO Box 250, Richmond Hill, GA 31324 or call Gregory MacDougal at 884-7273. To volunteer, call Hillen at 756-7505 or Kim Laska at 756-8774. Interested partners and sponsors are encouraged contact the city or the chamber 756-3444/6459.

The committee also urges everyone to attend a town meeting on the event which will be at city hall on March 11 at 2 p.m. For further information, contact Bass at 756-6459.

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