Community members and visitors gathered at J.F. Gregory Park Thursday evening for the opening ceremony of the Moving Wall exhibit, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, on display until Monday.
The event featured a welcome by Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter, invocation and benediction by Pastor Daniel Boyd, presentation of colors by the Richmond Hill High School JROTC, the Pledge of Allegiance led by elected council member Mark Ott, and the National Anthem sung by Anna Benton.
“Thank you for taking part in what over the next four days will be a tribute to the over 58,000 men and women whose names are inscribed on this wall," Carpenter told the crowd. "We are here today to honor them and to say thanks to those who fought, who died and who survived. We say thank you also to those who serve this country. No matter where you’ve served, you are due our respect."
Army veteran Donald Singleton, of Richmond Hill, who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 was also a speaker. “I actually stayed in Vietnam for 19 months and 23 days, in country, fighting a war," Singleton said. "I got wounded but I made it back and I’m glad of that. So, I just want to say to you all, enjoy yourself, and enjoy this wall, because it’s a great deed. It’s a great deed. We all can’t get to Washington D.C. but the wall can come to us. I’m going to ask the Mayor, can we have this wall every two years, I haven’t talked to him yet, but I’m going to talk to him about that.”
Singleton also spoke of his two childhood friends, Harry Boles and Lowry Cuthbert. Both men who grew up in Richmond Hill, were killed in the Vietnam War. Their names are now inscribed on the wall.
Gulf War Veteran, Sgt. Gregg Hogarth traveled from Liberty County to the opening ceremony to pay tribute and to see his uncle's name on the wall. “I never met my uncle, 2nd Lt. Richard Hogarth, which I got my middle name from. When I found out he was here, I decided to come out.”
The Moving Wall has been journeying across America for over 30 years for those who never had the opportunity to go to Washington and experience seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
However, there are some who attended the opening ceremony who have seen the memorial in Washington. “I’ve been to D.C. several times and seen the actual wall, my daughter has not, so I wanted my daughter to come and experience it and learn a little history," said Anita Thorn. "I still feel the emotion here just like I did in D.C. because if you look at the names and numbers, to know what they did for us, that’s important for me, it means a lot to me.”
The Moving Wall was assembled by a group of volunteers Thursday morning after it was escorted to J.F. Gregory Park by a motorcade. It will be open for viewing at the park 24-hours a day until Monday, November 11.