My sojourn to see the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Moving Wall
A truly moving experience for me
If you don’t know what it is it is a 1/2 scale version of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC that tours the country. When I found out that the Moving Wall memorial was going to be in southeast Michigan for only a few days I quickly made a hard mental note to go see it. And that is just what I did. On August 30 Saturday morning I made the trip out to Bennett Park in Hamburg, MI. Hamburg is a small town about 45 miles west of the metro Detroit area. Getting there was not a big issue although that area is full of small lakes and the roads are a spiders web to get around. But with the wonders of modern technology at our fingertips it wasn’t bad at all. And their signage was excellent. So between the two it went well.
Viewing the wall has always been an emotional trigger for me. The one in DC is mentally overpowering. And this smaller version carries with it all the same emotions, for me at least. You would think that 45 years would dull the sensitivity but it doesn’t. I was also on a second personal mission to get Faye Dean a rubbing of a family member, Jerry Fields, who is memorialized on the wall. He fell in combat in 1965.
The Moving Wall is just as impressive as the big one. And the respect and ceremony that is afforded this display is heartwarming. There is a ceremonial Honor Guard that patrols the Wall. Similar to the operations of the National Memorial. And there is a respectful reading of all the names along with the ringing of a bell with each name. With that as a background for viewing this display it evokes a very somber and thought provoking tone. All this is done by a combination of Vietnam Vets and current military volunteers. I did find Jerry on the one of the panels and got a rubbing of his name for Faye Dean. I had to meter my 3 passes of viewing the Wall. It’s tough.
One surprise for me that someone had placed a small memorial on the grounds for the members of “The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club” that were lost. The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club , of which I am proud to say that I a member, was created as a select group who were crews on US Navy ships and aircraft assigned to Yankee Station for combat support in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam during the conflict. Unfortunately there were 4 names on the list of pilot / bombardier-navigator crews from RVAh-13 that were lost. I am saddened to say I knew them all. The RVAH community was a small close knit group. It was a nice surprise to see them memorialized that way.
Along the way you always run into vets of all services, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, even civilian contractors, that are there to share their personal experiences. The emotions are wide ranging. From simple reflection to tears. And the constant “Welcome home brother”, a traditional greeting between fellow Vietnam vets, along with a clasp is everywhere. Even from non-military people. With no other introduction needed. And the great part was seeing families of memorialized loved ones along side those that are simply curious about the Wall. All in all a great experience.
There were many other static displays on the grounds of preserved Vietnam era equipment and memorabilia to browse through. The static displays along with the photos, weapons, both US and captured, vehicles, even one display with constant audio chatter of actual combat communications is memory provoking. Some good, some bad. Even military canine units, an integral part of our military arsenal, were present. But all part of the memorials’ experience. I spent the good part of four hours at the memorial display and headed home.
While it was an emotional roller coaster for me throughout the day, it was a great sole comforting experience. If you have never seen the Wall in DC or the moving Wall, I would highly recommend it. You will not be disappointed.