ELKO – A replica of the Vietnam memorial wall in Washington, D.C., is returning to Elko this month.
The traveling wall arrives the evening of Sept. 20 at the Elko City Park and will be assembled the next morning at 8 a.m. An opening ceremony is scheduled for noon Sept. 21.
Volunteers are needed for assembly and guarding the wall around the clock until it is disassembled Sept. 24.
Because people will need time to “reminisce for their memories and their healing,” volunteers will be stationed to guard the wall 24/7 while the wall is at the park, said Vi Larkin, VFW Auxiliary committee chair.
“We are bringing the wall for people to appreciate it at their own leisure and in their own time,” Larkin said. “People are welcome to view it at all times. We won’t stop anybody from coming in if they get off shift late or if they feel they need to be there at midnight to avoid the crowds.”
Presented by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, the wall is 360 feet long and 8 feet high, an 80 percent scale of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Constructed between 1982 and 1984, the black granite wall lists the names of more than 58,000 service men and women who died in the war.
The visit is the last in a three-part commitment to commemorate of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, Larkin said.
The Daughters of the American Revolution, Ruby Mountain Chapter, brought the proposal to the VFW Auxiliary three years ago. The two organizations partnered to honor Vietnam veterans with a welcome home parade and dinner at the Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino.
The second part was to commission a metal art sculpture and, thanks to the donation of two auxiliary members, commemorative challenge coins were minted and given to Vietnam War veterans.
“Our community response was so great,” Larkin said. Because of the outpouring of support, “we’ve not had to ask for any other donations or anything. It was completely paid for by the community and individual businesses.”
Unlike the last time the wall came to Elko, a “solemn remembrance” ceremony is planned instead of a larger celebration, said Larkin.
“It’s a solemn moment,” said Larkin, adding that there are six Elkoans listed on the wall, one of whom is her cousin.
Larkin said the project was a “mission of the heart” and hoped the wall would help recognize Native Americans who served in the war.
After attending tribal meetings in Beowawe, Larkin said hearing stories of tribal members who fought in the war “really touched my heart.” The auxiliary also has native members.
“Because they are a nation of their own within a nation, they sat aside that part of themselves to fight for the U.S.,” Larkin said.
The wall is to “provide those without the means or ability to travel to our great national memorial sites the opportunity to respect and share in the experience of honoring our heroes,” says AVTT’s website. “AVTT prides itself on the support of our Armed Forces and continues our mission of Honor, Respect, Remembrance for our fallen and serving men and women in uniform.”
In addition to volunteers, Larkin said other needs are cases of water and hotel arrangements for the AVTT driver.
To volunteer or for information, call Vi Larkin at 934-6150.