Tharptown ready to receive The Moving Wall
THARPTOWN - Yellow caution tape marks the grassy area at the Tharptown playground/soccer field complex sandwiched between the volley ball net and the merry-go-round. A V-shape platform and wooden base are separated from the play area by "keep out" signs.
On Thursday, the space will be transformed into The Moving Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Moving Wall, which opens at 4 p.m. Thursday at the site, honors the men and women who died while serving in the Vietnam War.
According to Sol Bidding, local organizer of the event, more than 250 Vietnam War veterans call the Shamokin area home.
The Moving Wall was created by Vietnam veteran John Devitt, of Stockton, Calif., who had attended the 1982 dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and was so struck by emotion, he decided to make a portable version for veterans that could not travel to the original, according to The Moving Wall website.
Two copies of The Moving Wall, which was first put on display in 1984, roam the United States, stopping at towns for approximately one week each.
The aluminum panels are half scale of the original and feature 58,175 names of the American dead.
Once on site, the wall is installed on a wooden platform built by volunteers in advance of its arrival and bracketed in place on the back with metal braces.
Arranging The Moving Wall's visit to Coal Township took two years. Bidding said he tried to get the monument for display during Coal Township's 175th anniversary last year, but it was not available.
"It turned out better because it's Shamokin's 150th anniversary, and it's our 50th anniversary from Vietnam," said Bidding. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964, which authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to take measures he deemed necessary to retaliate and to promote international peace and security in southeast Asia. It was the basis of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.
Bidding said The Moving Wall visited Elysburg approximately 10 years ago. More than 60,000 people came to pay tribute to the monument.
He's expecting a similar turnout this week in Coal Township.
Funds to pay for The Moving Wall's visit came from local businesses and organizations, including veteran's organizations and residents. Bidding said volunteers will put up a sign that says "We are one" to represent the unity of the people who helped bring the wall to Tharptown.
The visitors, who will observe the monument from the black-painted platforms, can use a free shuttle service that will stop every hour at Weis Markets in Shamokin between 4 and 9 p.m. Thursday and noon to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
At 8:30 a.m. Thursday motorcycle riders will escort The Moving Wall from Danville through Elysburg, Kulpmont and Shamokin to the soccer fields in Tharptown. A ceremony featuring guest speaker Andy Bubnis, of Elysburg, who is a sergeant and a veteran of the Vietnam War, a presentation from a choral group and a rifle salute by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday. During the ceremony, a veteran will continuously walk 21 steps to represent the march in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Visitors will receive free programs containing a list and photos of local soldiers whose names appear on the wall as well as information on the Medal of Honor recipients and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam War who were from Pennsylvania.