The Moving Wall will be in Grayling for a four-day exhibit to honor Vietnam veterans
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Thousands of troops who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War will be honored when The Moving Wall arrives in the community this week.
The Moving Wall, the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located in Washington, D.C., will be displayed in Grayling from Thursday, July 20, to Monday, July 24, at the Crawford County Sports Complex, located at 5712 Fairground Lane.
The Crawford County Veterans Services Office initiated plans to display The Moving Wall in the community. Crawford County is paying $5,500 to bring the wall to Grayling.
The American Legion Post #106 and Carl W. Borchers Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #3736 are serving as co-hosts for The Moving Wall.
The Moving Wall is slated to come into the community around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19, being escorted by hundreds of motorcyclists and law enforcement.
The Moving Wall is coming to Grayling from Boston, and groups of Legion Riders from throughout the state are planning to meet the truck transporting The Moving Wall at the Michigan border.
“They’re all going to converge one way or another,” said Leonard Nemeth, the commander of the VFW Post #3736. “The Legion Riders are basically those who are honoring their fallen soldiers.”
An opening ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on July 20.
The wall will be available for public viewing 24 hours a day. It will be guarded around the clock, and retired police officers will serve as guards during nighttime hours.
“God willing, I hope and pray that are no incidents at all,” Nemeth said. “I hope this runs as smooth as a sailboat going across a glass lake, and may the strong winds take you.”
No vendors or sales can take place near the wall.
Veterans organizations will be on hand to present items to their fellow veterans, including pins to recognize those who served during the Vietnam War era.
The five residents from Crawford County, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam will be honored. They include James Evart Blaauw, Carl Whilem Borchers, Robert Lawrence Fairbotham, Michael James Hatfield, and James Erwin Russ.
Reveille will be played in the morning and Taps will be played in the evening.
“It’s just like you would do it in the military,” Nemeth said.
The Moving Wall was previously in the community at Camp Grayling in June 1990.
Nemeth helped coordinate bringing the wall to Grayling with his late father-in-law, Donald A. Campbell, who served as command sergeant major at Camp Grayling, and CW5 Ron Larson.
“It was honor then to do it because of the fact of my military background, knowing it was for my veterans or my former brothers who have served like I have, and that is the biggest reason I decided to do this year,” Nemeth said.
Vehicles from Matt LaFontaine Automotive will be available to shuttle people to and from the Crawford County Sports Complex, especially if there are parking issues when The Moving Wall will be exhibited.
County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield, who serves on the veteran’s service advisory council for Crawford County, said he is proud of the veterans service organizations and sponsors that are helping bring The Moving Wall to Grayling.
Wakefield served two and a half tours in Vietnam with a U.S. Army Combat Engineers unit.
“It’s kind of heart-wrenching for me because I was there,” Wakefield said. “I do have couple of acquaintances on that wall. It’s emotional.”
After graduating from Grayling High School, Nemeth joined the U.S. Navy in 1979 and served four years. He then went on to serve 26 and a half years in the Michigan National Guard, including during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003-2004.
Nemeth said Vietnam veterans served as mentors while he prepared for his future and served in both branches of the military.
“I never thought of making it a career, but when I got out and joined the Guards, I had all of the Vietnam veterans train and teach me and give me all the tools and the experience to bring me to who I am today,” Nemeth said.
A core group of just over a dozen volunteers handled the planning to bring The Moving Wall to Grayling. More volunteers will be sought to help out during four days when The Moving Wall will be in the community. People can sign up to volunteer at the American Legion Post #106.
“We are still looking for support and volunteers to help, whether it be just to escort the individuals to a section of the wall, help identify which panel they are looking for and that individual – whatever may be needed,” Nemeth said.
A closing ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 24, before The Moving Wall is taken down and is transported to another community.
“It’s to honor the veterans and those who have sacrificed their lives,” Nemeth said.