Vietnam wall expected to draw visitors to Pickerington
In an effort to bring closure and remembrance to those who fought in Vietnam and their loved ones, the David Johnson Memorial Post 283 American Legion has arranged for the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to visit Pickerington this Veterans’ Day.
As many as 60,000 people are expected to visit the post, 7725 Refugee Road, during its exhibition from Nov. 10-15, Post Commander Jim Massengale said.
“It’s a big deal,” Massengale explained. “It’s going to be a big thing for the post and for the community.”
The wall, which was created by a veterans’ group in Brevard County, Fla., is three-fifths the size of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. It stands six feet tall at the center and covers almost 300 feet from end to end. It includes names of approximately 58,000 who were killed or missing in action in Vietnam, including 3,000 Ohio residents.
This effort is close to the heart of the David Johnson Memorial Post 283 American Legion, as the post is named after a Pickerington graduate who was killed in Vietnam, Massengale said.
“The wall was up in northern Ohio last year and one of our members went up and saw it,” he said. “He came back and said, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ ”
The display will arrive with much fanfare, Massengale added. At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 10 the wall carrier, accompanied by motorcycle escorts, will leave Scioto Downs and will make its way to Post 283 by approximately 12:45 p.m.
“We’re expecting maybe 2,000 to 3,000 motorcycles,” he said. “It is definitely going to be something to see.”
This will require closure of several major roads, including part of I-270, Massengale said.
Then at 1 p.m., opening ceremonies will begin at the post. The guarded exhibit then will be open to the public 24 hours a day through Nov. 14, when a closing ceremony will be held in the evening.
Throughout the wall’s visit, Pickerington’s instrumental and vocal groups will perform patriotic music at various times, and Mott’s Military Museum will display exhibits relating to Vietnam. In addition, an art contest will be conducted, with the best works featured in the post for display.
“It really is a community effort,” Massengale said, noting the post is working closely with the school district, the Pickerington Police Department, the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, the State Highway Patrol, the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce and area businesses, to make sure everything goes smoothly.
A project of this magnitude does not come cheaply, however. Although the cost of bringing the wall to the community is only $6,000, there are many other expenses involved in the project, Massengale said.
“We’re looking at a total cost of $20,000,” he said, noting the Pickerington and Violet Township communities have worked together to raise the majority of the funds.
A $5,000 donation from Violet Township and a $6,000 donation from the post have gone a long way in the fundraising effort, he said.
In the event there are any extra funds remaining, they will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project or the Homeless Veterans, Massengale added.
In addition, the Pickerington-Violet Township Historical Society is helping with the search for names and biographical information about people from Fairfield County who were killed in Vietnam.
Anybody with information should contact Peggy Portier at (614) 860-0899 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any details.
At this point, organizers are still looking for volunteers to help with transportation, parking and traffic; site prep, setup and disassembly; housing, meals and fuel for those delivering the wall; as well as help with education, history and ceremonies. To help, call Jim Massengale at (614) 868-2673.
All told, the post is excited about offering this opportunity to the community.
“We hope it brings closure to some people, especially those who haven’t been able to make it to the memorial in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “The war wasn’t well appreciated – many of our veterans were spit upon and looked down upon. We just hope this brings a little closure and remembrance for them.”