Maria J. Velasco
The Vietnam Memorial Wall is one of the most visited monuments of the United States. On May 1, a replica of the famous wall found a temporary home at Miller Park in Fontana.
A coalition of veteran groups and the city of Fontana sponsored the Vietnam Moving Wall to come to Fontana. The wall was displayed 24 hours a day from May 1 through 5.
Rick Shaurette, a veteran, has visited the original wall before.
“At the wall in Washington, I didn’t make it to the other end just thinking about all those people,” Shaurette said. “So young, never came back.”
The Moving Wall is half the size of the original Vietnam Memorial Wall located in Washington D.C., but walking by the whole thing is just as hard for Shaurette, who had to step away from the wall and take emotional rests every few minutes in order to continue.
“I was 19 when I went out there,” Shaurette said. “I am so lucky to have come back.”
Many of the people that visited the wall were searching for names they wanted to find on the wall.
“When I was a kid I had a few bracelets of soldiers,” Kathy Shaw, Fontana resident said. “One of them came back, the other one didn’t.”
Volunteers were present 24 hours a day in tents located in front of the wall to help people find their love ones on the wall or for people like Shaw to tell them what became of the soldiers whose names were engraved on the Prisoners of War and Missing in Action bracelets sold in the 70’s. There are 58, 260 names on the wall.
“I know a few names, but I am not looking for their names; I know they are here,” Shaurette said.
Visitors left flowers, pictures, cards, balloons and other objects at the Moving Wall. The objects left at the wall will be collected and boxed. When the Moving Wall has traveled the whole country, a museum will be built and all the objects that have been left at the Moving Wall will be displayed.
The volunteers were there for more than just information; they were also there to welcome the veterans home. During the war, the soldiers were greeted with protestors and insults when they returned from Vietnam.
“I wasn’t allowed to call my wife and tell her where I would get home because of the protestors,” Shaurette said.
As Shaurette walked over to the information tent, Wren Goodwine a volunteer shook his hand and gave him a long-overdue welcome.
“We had a really good turnout,” Mike Sams a volunteer said. “Pretty steady turnout. There is always someone looking at the wall.”
What stands out most in the mind of Sams is the veterans that come to see the wall but just see it from afar.
“They look from a distance because they can’t work up the courage to get any closer,” Sams said. “They sit in the park tables and say ‘This is as far as I can make it for now’.”
John Devitt is the creator behind the Moving Wall. A veteran of the war, Devitt wanted to share the feelings he experienced during his visit to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1982. He felt that the wall was a place to heal and that every veteran of the war should be able to visit The Wall close to his or her home.
As of January the Moving Wall has been displayed in 1,105 communities.
“We should have it everywhere, I like to see it everywhere,” Shaurette said.
Maria J. Velasco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org