The Moving Wall monument is coming to J.F. Gregory Park Thursday. Members of the organizing committee said preparations have gone smoothly, and they are expecting a big turnout.
The replica includes every single one of the over 58,000 names of American soldiers who died in Vietnam. It is over 250 feet long which is half the length of the one in D.C.
Thursday at 8 a.m., the truck carrying the Wall will depart from the Best Western on Hwy. 17 and drive to J.F. Gregory Park amidst a bit of fanfare. In front of the truck will be a motorcade of veterans and others on Harley Davidsons. Meanwhile, the committee has already handed out handheld flags to businesses along the route and are encouraging individuals to stand outside and wave the flags as the motorcade passes by.
From there, volunteers will erect the monument and prep the park for the opening ceremony at 3 p.m. The ceremony will be hosted by WJCL news anchor Casey Jones and will also include the Georgia National Guard color guard and keynote speaker Judge Doug Andrews. Andrews, a Savannah judge and attorney, is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and artillery battery commander who toured Vietnam in from 1969-1970.
Saturday will be a big day for the Moving Wall event as a military Chinook helicopter, flown in by Bravo company 1/169 Aviation Detachment, will land in the park at 9 a.m. and be on display until 3 p.m. Local emergency vehicles will be on display as well, including the first public display of the massive Bryan County mobile command center. Organizations such as the Red Cross and POW/MIA will have displays on Saturday as well.
Before taking down the Wall, the event will conclude Monday, June 16 with a closing ceremony at 1 p.m. It will include the 3rd ID color guard and keynote speaker and Vietnam veteran Ray Gaster. Gaster, who owns Gaster Lumber on Hwy. 204, has donated most of the materials and labor for the wooden platform the Moving Wall will rest on.
Vietnam vet and committee member Donald Singleton said this event is two years in the making.
"I truly believe that bringing the Wall will help close old wounds and to help educate people about the war in Vietnam and the impact on our country," he said.
He also 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. The items are not discarded, but rather packaged up and sent to a museum at the Moving Wall’s home base in White Plains, Michigan.
Richmond Hill resident Karla Hillen, who originally proposed this idea with Singleton in 2006, said this event could "promote healing with veterans while connecting combat vets of today with those of another era. I think it will pull the community closer as well."
"This was a great idea and will be a perfect extension of the veterans monument in J.F. Gregory Park," Mayor Richard Davis said. "We need to always remember them and express our thanks to them and their families."
Jan Bass, one of nine committee members, said 75 residents have stepped up to volunteer for this event while over 50 sponsors have signed on to make this event a reality.