Vietnam Wall replica coming to Follansbee

FOLLANSBEE – A half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be coming to Follansbee next week, and a memorial service will be held to welcome it.

The Moving Wall is scheduled to arrive on July 11, when it will be assembled at the Follansbee Middle School football field and will be the setting for a memorial service on July 12 honoring all who served in the Vietnam War, said Tony Paesano, president of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber has teamed with the Follansbee Community Days Committee, headed by Tom Ludewig and Nina Meca, to bring the mobile monument to the city.

With the cooperation of the Brooke County Board of Education, the wall will be displayed at the football field from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 12-14. The hours coincide with Follansbee Community Days, which again is being held in the Follansbee Park parking lot.

Paesano said everyone, especially veterans of the Vietnam War, is invited to the memorial service, which will be held at 11 a.m. on July 12. In the event of heavy rain, it will be moved to 11 a.m. on July 13.

Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, it bears the names of 58,272 men and women who died during the war or are classified as prisoners of war or missing in action.

Comprised of aluminum panels, it is about 252 feet long, slightly longer than half the length of the Washington monument, and stands 6 feet high.

It was built through the efforts of John Devitt of California, a helicopter crew chief during the war; fellow Vietnam veterans Norris Shears, Gerry Haver and others. After attending the 1982 dedication of the Washington monument, Devitt wanted to share his experience with those unable to travel to the nation’s capitol, according to a website for the Moving Wall.

Plans called initially for a stationary replica to be built on the West Coast, but Devitt met several veterans who suggested making it portable. Devitt and Haver funded its construction with loans, donations and $2,500 of their own money.

Since its completion in 1984, the Moving Wall has visited many communities throughout the U.S., including Toronto in 2002, according to Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd., a White Pine, Mich. organization founded by Devitt.

The mobile monument’s black polyurethane surface mimics the reflective surface of the Washington monument. The names were silk-screened onto the surface using negatives for stencils used in the original.

Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, visitors may scan the smaller monument for the names of loved ones who died while serving during the war or who are missing. Paesano said volunteers will be on hand to assist visitors in locating the names.

Over the years, many visitors to the Washington monument have used crayons and paper to replicate the names of loved ones. Visitors to the Moving Wall also may create “rubbings” but must use lumber crayons supplied by organizers. The large crayons have a flat, rather than pointed edge, and are ideal for “rubbings” while pencils, pens and conventional crayons can damage the monument, said organizers.

Paesano said many volunteers will be involved in building a platform for the monument, decorating it with flowers and flags and providing security at night. The chamber and Follansbee Community Days Committee raised $5,000 to bring the monument to Follansbee and cover additional costs.

Paesano said during the service wreaths will be placed at the site by Sandy Perito – mother of Joey Perito, a 21-year-old Army sergeant who was killed by a land mine while serving in Vietnam; and five local Vietnam War veterans – Hartzel Brady, John Cox, Larry Lauffer, Mike Highfield and Steven Jasko.

Also participating will be James McFadden, a local teacher and military veteran who will serve as guest speaker; the Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad led by Doug Lilly; Tri-State Young Marines led by Gabe Arlia; Brent Kimball; Mayor David Velegol Jr.; Monsignor Paul Hudock; and Christian Assembly pastor Joe Cuomo.

Paesano said he’s heard from many who are looking forward to visiting the Moving Wall.

“People are really happy about this. There’s a lot of people who will never get to Washington, so we’re bringing it to them,” he said.

Paesano said most importantly, “We’re paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. They’re our heroes.”

(Scott can be contacted at