The Wall That Heals coming to region
TIOGA COUNTY, N.Y. - Following the flood, Bill Chandler, president of the VVA Chapter 480, took over an effort to bring 'The Wall That Heals' to the area. According to Chandler, bringing the wall to the area will give many who have never seen it an opportunity to do so.
"I thought it was important to the Vietnam Veterans and the community to pay honor to the 20 men from Tioga County who gave their lives for us," said Chandler. In addition, Chandler noted, any dollars remaining that came in through the fundraising efforts set in place to bring The Wall in will be divided between the VFW and American Legion, and will used to assist community residents in their continuing recovery from September's flooding.
According to Chandler, The Wall will be greeted at the Wilawana exit off Route 17 on July 17. An escort will bring The Wall to the east side of the Owego Free Academy football field. On July 18, at 7 a.m., Chandler and others will begin putting up the wall, and it will be opened to the public at noon.
On July 19, at 11 a.m., a small opening ceremony will take place. Then on the evening of July 20, entertainment will be provided by a local band. The annual Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway of Valor ride will register beginning at 7 a.m. on July 21, with the ride departing from the Owego Free Academy at 11 a.m.
On July 22, at 4 p.m., there will be a closing ceremony that will include an honor to Gold Star Mothers or family members of those who lost their lives.
On Monday, July 23, The Wall will be torn down, and an escort will once again be provided.
The Wall That Heals is a traveling half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and will be on display from July 18 to 23 locally as part of a national tour. It is the only Wall replica and includes a traveling museum and information center. Every one of the more than 58,000 names listed on the Wall in Washington are recreated on the traveling wall. Computers, which are part of the mobile exhibit, help family and friends find names on the wall.
The exhibit will be open 24 hours a day. The only other stop for the Wall in New York State this year is scheduled for October in Hornell.
Names on the Wall are listed alphabetically by day of casualty. The Wall, when assembled, is 250 feet long and in the shape of a chevron, like the original in Washington.
Visitors are invited to bring photographs of a service member listed on the wall to have it scanned while they wait. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which maintains the Wall and facilitates the tour, has launched a national call for photos to collect pictures of all those listed on the Wall. Pictures can also be submitted online at VVMF.org/photos.
Additionally, the Fourth Annual Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Highway of Valor Ride will depart from The Wall on Saturday, July 21. Motorcyclists will be leaving from Owego and traveling along Route 38 to Hannibal, New York and returning. The Valor Ride starts at 11 a.m., with registration open to the public and beginning at 7 a.m. The ride is to raise awareness of Route 38's designation as the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Highway of Valor.
Angelo Patitucci said that the visit from the Wall has been a long time coming. He said the visit offers an opportunity for those who cannot make the trip to Washington to have the Wall come to them, and that he himself has been unable to make the trip to the capital. Patitucci is a Vietnam Vet who served with the First Air Calvary Division from 1970 through 1971 in-country. The Wall That Heals is an apt title, as Patitucci said, "The way some veterans were treated back then ... some got treated well, others didn't."
Village of Owego Mayor Kevin Millar said he has made the trip to Washington to see the Wall, but is also glad the Wall is coming to Owego for those who are unable to make the trip to Washington to see it. The Wall has special meaning for Millar. One of the names etched into the granite is that of Peter E. Millar, Marine. Peter is Kevin's brother.
Millar said that he volunteered with the Marines as the draft was coming, and he thought that he might have a better chance of surviving his tour if he was in an aviation unit - which was guaranteed by his volunteering.
"My major objective was to come out alive," Millar said, echoing the sentiment of many veterans from the era.
He added that it is important to remember how and why this nation goes to war, and saluted the service of all veterans, including those of the Vietnam era.
The Wall will be met at the Wilawana Service Station at noon on July 17 to be escorted into Owego. Owego Police Chief Karen Vinti said the single motorcycle escort of the Owego Police Department will take part in the escort.