Dexter

The Moving Wall comes to Dexter

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DEXTER — For the equivalent of four full days from May 11-15 the more than 58,300 Americans who lost their lives during the Vietnam War were honored as Shirley B. Carter VFW Post 4298 hosted the Moving Wall at Bud Ellms Field. The Moving Wall is a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the smaller memorial inscribed with names of the fallen has been traveling around the country for three and a half decades to be viewed by veterans and others who may be unable to travel to the nation’s capital.

Ellms Field also had several large panels on display, The Banners, which were created by the Mass Vigil Society. The Banners feature the names of military members killed in action since the Persian Gulf Wars and were made in the hope that the panels will bring healing and peace to families the way the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has done for previous generations.

Visitors to The Moving Wall were asked to sign in and upon walking through the chute they came upon The Banners. From The Banners a path led to The Moving Wall and its 58,315 names. Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., The Moving Wall also had items placed along the graded walkway including flowers and a pair of sandals. The Moving Wall, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, enables visitors to see their reflection with names to symbolically bring the past and present together.

Those stopping by Ellms Field could make rubbings of names if they wished with wall escorts — part of a group of volunteers of veterans and civilians alike who manned the site around the clock — assisting.

The Moving Wall was assembled by a group of veterans on Thursday, May 11 with the opening ceremony taking place later in the day. Two-by-four stakes were driven into the ground every four feet along the back of The Moving Wall, which was located beyond the ball field centerfield fence.

VFW Post 4298 Commander David Iverson said a little under $20,000 needed to be raised to bring The Moving Wall to Dexter. “There was a lot of suppers and some generous donors,” he said.

Over 10 months VFW Post 4298 members worked on the effort, including serving weekly Friday night suppers, and dozens of businesses, nonprofits and individuals provided support for The Moving Wall to be brought to Dexter.

The Moving Wall opened to the public at 5 p.m. on May 11 with an opening ceremony being conducted in a large tent, set up in the event of rain and put to use with inclement weather later during the four-day stretch.

In his opening remarks, Iverson said nearly a year ago the idea was first brought up among VFW Post 4298 members. “There was a lot of pot pie, a lot of mac ‘n cheese and a lot of beef stew,” he said about the numerous benefit suppers.

Iverson also told the audience about The Banners and mentioned U.S. Navy Seal Kyle Milliken, of Falmouth who was killed in Somalia earlier in the week. “It’s happening every day,” Iverson said.

He then introduced VFW Post 4298 Senior Vice Commander Bill French, who said May 11 marks the 50th anniversary of the start of four-week Operation Malheur I in Vietnam. French said the operation mission was to disrupt, and if possible destroy, the North Vietnamese Army.

“We all know that battles are not fought without casualties and this one was no different,” French said. The senior vice commander said that in 1967 he was home after having served in the U.S. Marines and research led him “to find the names of those very brave men.”

“Go out to that wall behind me and go find the names,” French said. “God bless those very brave men and God bless our soldiers everywhere.”

“I hope that you visit here and it will help you in some way,” French concluded.

Iverson asked those present to take a moment to remember “the POW/MIA who have not returned home.” After thanking all who served in Vietnam, he said, “Thank you and I hope all of you find some peace.”

As VFW Post 4298 members were in the planning stages last year they noticed Bud Ellms Field lacked a flagpole. The thought soon became to not simply erect a temporary pole but a permanent pole.

The flagpole became the Eagle Scout Service Project of Stephen Thomas, a member of Boy Scout Troop 51 in Dexter who is a Garland resident and freshman at Dexter Regional High School.

The flagpole was donated to the town of Dexter by Frank and Melissa Spizuoco, with VFW Post 4298 contributing an American and POW/MIA flags.

During the late afternoon on Friday, May 12 the flagpole and flags were formally dedicated. With Thomas directing over microphone, his fellow Boy Scouts slowly raised the flag as the stars and stripes appeared from behind The Moving Wall with the ceremony audience and site visitors standing at attention.

The flagpole is located between a pair of electrical poles in order for the flags to be illuminated.

The Moving Wall display in Dexter from May 11-15 included a pair of rides to the site, remarks by Ret. Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, a Gold Star Mother’s Tribute on Mother’s Day and two days for area students to visit and learn more about The Moving Wall and what the structure means. The closing ceremony was held mid-afternoon on Monday, May 15.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
THE MOVING WALL COMES TO DEXTER — From May 11-15 Shirley B. Carter VFW Post 4298 hosted The Moving Wall at Bud Ellms Field in Dexter. The Moving Wall is a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the smaller memorial is also inscribed with names of the more than 58,300 Americans who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. A flagpole dedication was held on the afternoon of May 12 with members of Boy Scout Troop 51 raising the American flag and a POW/MIA flag at Bud Ellms Field for the first time.

Observer photos/Stuart Hedstrom
REMEMBERING THOSE WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE — Shirley B. Carter VFW Post 4298 worked to bring The Moving Wall to Bud Ellms Field in Dexter from May 11-15. The half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. travels around the country to be viewed by veterans and others who may be unable to visit the nation’s capital.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
PERMANENT FIXTURE FOR BUD ELLMS FIELD — A permanent flagpole for Bud Ellms Field in Dexter was formally dedicated on May 12 while The Moving Wall was at the site. The flagpole was given to the town by Frank and Melissa Spizuoco, with VFW Post 4298 contributing an American and POW/MIA flags, and the addition to the field is the Eagle Scout Service Project of Stephen Thomas of Boy Scout Troop 51 of Dexter.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
LEADING THE FLAG RAISING — Stephen Thomas, with Shirley B. Carter VFW Post 4298 Commander David Iverson standing next to him, instructs his fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 51 of Dexter in raising the flag on the new flagpole at Bud Ellms Field in Dexter on May 12. The flag was raised for the first time at the permanent, illuminated flagpole while The Moving Wall was at the site.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
OPENING CEREMONY — Shirley B. Carter VFW Post 4298 Senior Vice Commander Bill French, with Post Commander David Iverson standing to French’s right, speaks during the opening ceremony on May 11 for The Moving Wall at Bud Ellms Field in Dexter.

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