HUDSON, Mich. — The Hudson American Legion Post went several miles beyond its mission last weekend to present the Moving Wall, the traveling memorial that commemorates the Vietnam War casualties.
Those throngs of people came from distant points to pay respect and learn more about the 1955 to 1975 war proved that American patriotism is alive and well. It was demonstrated in a parade, with flags flying in a warm August breeze, a deceased soldier’s helmet, wreaths of red, white, and blue, and the red roses placed at the impressive black wall.
The four-day observance was planned and guided by members of the Hudson Hannan-Colvin American Legion Post 180. Post Comm. James Topps said the post applied for the wall to be brought to Hudson two years ago and received it earlier than expected because a Minnesota applicant canceled.
Carole Shadbolt, an Army veteran who served from 1974 to 1976, places a red rose at the Moving Wall. The traveling memorial commemorated casualties from the Vietnam War between 1955 and 1975.
The framed panels that are inscribed with the names of 58,282 American servicemen killed in the war, and are half the size of the original monument in Washington, arrived on a flat bed trailer from White Pine, Mich., in the Upper Peninsula. Hudson veterans and townspeople assemble the panels to form two walls, each 125.5 feet long.
The panels stood erect on a wooden base built by local volunteers. Commander Topps said that the post only had three months to plan for it after he learned it was coming to Hudson. Legion members formed intricate plans on how and where it would be placed, proper ceremonies, and exhibits to help recognize the local servicemen who were killed in Vietnam as well as those who returned home.
The Hudson High School lobby was chosen to safeguard the exhibits, most of which were loaned by families, including uniforms, pictures, and a large display of cherished hand-written letters to “mom and dad” back home. The parking lot was chosen for the wall.
The driveway leading into the parking lot was lined with American flags that sweetened the patriotic mood of the event.
The line of spectators moved slowly and quietly as visitors read the names, sometimes looking for a familiar one, and some stooping to put a rose or a flag at the base of the wall.
Veterans, who were easily identified by their monogrammed caps, shirts, or tears in their eyes, were commended with audible, “Thank you for serving.” Their response for being thanked for service all those years ago was a humble, “You’re welcome.”
The Hanna-Colvin Post put together a meaningful program, beginning with a community parade led by the legion Riders who escorted the wall through the city en route to the high school location.
Bruce Coleman, Gary Johnston, and Phil Lawrence, Hudson High graduates and Vietnam combat veterans, read the names of the 34 Lenawee County men and the 11 from Hillsdale County who were killed in Vietnam. Wreaths were placed near the wall by representatives of the Hanna-Colvin auxiliary, Sons of the American Squadron, and the American Legion Riders Chapter.
The wall was open 24 hours every day and had legion protection. Commander Topps said that many visitors arrived from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. to meditate.
Commander Topps hopes the experience will be long lasting to visitors. For him, it was personal.
He served in Vietnam from 1958 to 1959 and traveled to Washington with his wife in 1982 for the dedication of the full-size monument when it opened to the public
“We must never forget the veterans who came back and those who were lost. Never,” he said.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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