Visit to Moving Wall 'heartwrenching'
THARPTOWN - Patriotism filled the air at the Tharptown playground Friday when more than 1,000 people visited The Moving Wall, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to show their respects for more than 58,000 service members killed or missing in action.
For some, it was their first viewing of the inspiring wall that initially went on display in Tyler, Texas, in October 1984, and now travels around the country from April through November.
Janice DeFacis, of Trevorton, described her first Moving Wall experience as "overwhelming and heart wrenching."
She came to see the name of her first cousin, Cleon L. Schreffler, of Millersburg, who was killed at the age of 21 while setting off explosives at a bridge in Vietnam.
"I'm amazed at how young all these soldiers were when they were killed," she said. "They gave their lives for their country."
DeFacis said Schreffler is survived by his mother and two sisters.
While at The Moving Wall, DeFacis met a woman who went to high school with Schreffler and was searching for his name as well.
Local resident Christopher Christian, 34, who served in the Army National Guard from 2001 to 2007 and was deployed to Afghanistan, also has seen the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and The Moving Wall in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Although he doesn't have any relatives on The Moving Wall, Christian said he came to pay his respects to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, especially Ronald Lee Raker, whose memorial award Christian won while playing football for Shamokin Area High School (see Raker's profile on page 1).
Raker was a U.S. Army veteran who received several awards, including the Silver Star, for his outstanding service in Vietnam. The Shamokin Area High School graduate was killed Feb. 18, 1969, at the age of 20 when he stepped on a booby trap during a combat assault mission.
Christian commended Sol Bidding, a local organizer of The Moving Wall, for helping bring the prestigious monument to the area during Shamokin's 150th anniversary.
Beverly Yocum, of Paxinos, who also was visiting The Moving Wall for the first time, said, "This is very emotional. I'm so grateful to the men and women who died while giving us our freedom."
Yocum's father-in-law, Lindy Yocum, served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He passed away in 1993.
The Moving Wall has been a family affair for Luke and Kelly Jones, of Shamokin, and their 7-year-old son, Aron, who were working at the registration booth Friday evening.
"We're here to help in any way because we appreciate their sacrifices," said Kelly Jones. "These are the people who never came home from Vietnam, causing sadness and anger for their families and friends."
In addition to the many adults in attendance, 400 fifth- and sixth-grade students in Shamokin Area School District visited the wall during the day.
The wall will remain open 24 hours per day through 3 p.m. Monday when it will be disassembled.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Andy Bubnis, of Elysburg, will be the featured speaker during a ceremony at 1 p.m. today at the playground.
Bubnis enlisted in the Marines May 30, 1962. He deployed to the Mekong Delta with advisory team 54 in Rach Gia and advisory team 96 in Can Tho, working to provide air and naval gun support to U.S. Army Airborne divisions and allied nations, including the South Vietnamese Army. He earned the rank of sergeant and received honorable discharge Sept. 30, 1966.
Today's service also will feature a choral group, a rifle salute by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Line Mountain students performing taps and a Gold Star mother presenting a wreath in honor of the war dead.