A Moving Tribute

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A visit to the Vietnam Veterans memorial wall in Washington, DC, is an emotional experience. Its polished black surface, engraved with over 58,286 names, is a solemn reminder of the war that divided a nation and defined a generation.

It’s also a stirring tribute to those who died: column after column of lives lost or soldiers missing in action, in chronological order.

Not everyone can make the trek to Washington to experience the wall — but this fall, that experience will be coming to Johnny Appleseed Country.  From November 3 through 6, the Moving Wall — a half-size replica of the Vietnam memorial — will be set up in Leominster’s Carter Park.


The “Wall That Heals,” says Robert Grudziecki, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1807 in Leominster and Vietnam War Veteran, is “meant not for fanfare or as a public display for crowds, but rather to bring very personal healing to a raw and open wound” that organizers say is still gaping for many.

“Often, those veterans still looking to heal will walk the path alongside the memorial in times of quiet moments, sometimes by themselves or with a friend, even at night or during the early morning hours when they know they can be alone in the memory of those with whom they once shared the burden of war. Their emotions are personal and private — and it is for them that the wall is kept open around the clock during its stay.”

Joe Firmani, who was instrumental in bringing The Wall to Leominster, notes that Carter Park on Route 12 is both a serene location and a visible one; volunteers will stand watch 24 hours a day, as visitors stop by to look for a name or spend time in reflection.

vietnam-wallSince the idea for the Moving Wall was launched in 1984, two replicas of the monument have traveled to communities across the country, in cities and towns stretching from Tyler, Texas to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Grand Isle, Nebraska; and Queens, New York.

Of the more than three million in the country who served during the Vietnam War, 58,000 lost their lives, and only 850,000 remain who can still be accounted for. The city of Leominster itself saw 1,200 service members go to Vietnam between the years 1962 and 1975. The nine of these who gave their lives in that service are now memorialized on the wall.

Special Events

Arriving with a large motorcycle escort, The Wall will be erected on November 2, and an opening ceremony with the Leominster Vietnam Veterans of America’s Chapter 11 is planned for 9 am on November 3. It will remain open for visits through the weekend. Special events planned during that stay include a flyover by the Massachusetts National Guard, a POW/MIA ceremony, the lighting of luminaries and a performances by the South Lancaster Academy Choir.

The ceremonies, Grudziecki  says, will “center on respectfully remembering the 58,286 men and women who gave their life in service to their country during the Vietnam War. As part of the program, the Leominster veterans who were killed in action (KIA) in Vietnam will be remembered individually. These warriors will have their name and short biography read.  Each will receive his own honor.”

As events are finalized, details will be available online: http://act.vvmf.org/page/s/the-wall-that-heals—leominster-ma, and at their facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/VietnamMovingWallleominster1116/.