Vietnam Wall comes to southern Ohio

By Frank Lewis

August 15, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Hundreds of motorcyclists led the way while hundreds more followed as the Moving Vietnam Wall and the Ohio Flags of Honor display crossed the Greenup Dam Bridge en route to Ironton Thursday morning.

Law enforcement from several departments including the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Proctorville Police Department and several others waited on the bridge for the two trucks carrying the displays to come over the horizon on the bridge. They then moved out, leading the way down onto U.S. 52 east. American Legion Riders Post 433 of Ironton invited units from throughout the area to take part in the procession. Several Scioto County American Legion posts also were among those showing their respect as the units passed.

“When we were told the Wall of Honor was coming here and they asked for our help, we certainly jumped on that,” Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. “One of my Sergeants, Sergeant Randy Goodall’s wife’s brother’s name is on that wall. He was killed in Vietnam. So he really took this thing to heart and started setting it up and contacting all the agencies in the tri-state. Once we figured out the Wall would be in Kentucky at a hotel the night before, we started contacting those other agencies to get this thing really moving.”

Lawless said as the word spread, more agencies wanted to be involved including fire departments and EMS units.

“I really enjoy that kind of stuff,” Scioto County Sheriff’s Deputy David Fairchild said. “It feels good to be a part of that. I’ve been part of a few funeral processions, and that was the first time for something like that, and it’s an honor.”

Fairchild said being a part of escorting the Flags of Honor and the Wall brings a lot of emotions to your mind.

“The reason for doing something like that is to remember fallen officers and our military who have served to protect us overseas, where we do the same thing here locally,” Fairchild said.

Fairchild’s cruiser was among several that sat off the berm and waited for the procession, and there was an obvious camaraderie among the officers representing their law enforcement agencies.

“We’re all brothers and sisters,” Fairchild said. “That’s how we look at each other. We consider ourselves family. We’re always there for the help.”

The Moving Wall is the half-size replica of the Washington, D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has been touring the country for almost 30 years. When John Devitt attended the 1982 dedication in Washington, he felt the positive power of “The Wall.” He vowed to share that experience with those who did not have the opportunity to go to Washington.

Devitt, Norris Shears, Gerry Haver and other Vietnam veteran volunteers built The Moving Wall. It went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas in October of 1984. Two structures of The Moving Wall now travel the USA from April through November spending about a week at each site.

Lawless said the original planned route was changed when citizens of the city of Ironton wanted to see the procession up close, so instead of turning directly onto the shopping center from U.S. 52, it was rerouted through the town. He said people lined the streets to show their respect for those whose names are on the Wall.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of all of the officers,” Lawless said. “To have that Wall come here and be able to honor the men and women who died to keep us safe is certainly an honor, and we were glad that we could participate and show respect for this wall when it came through.”

The final destination for the Flags of Honor and the Moving Vietnam Wall was the Ironton Hills Shopping Center, located at the intersection of Ohio 52 and Ohio 93. The opening ceremony was scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday and the Flags and the Wall will remain on display, 24 hours a day, until Monday morning.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.