Thomaston Welcomes The Moving Wall!!
Knox Museum in Thomaston has been selected to host the Vietnam Combat Veterans’ The Moving Wall for five days over Memorial Day weekend in 2016. The memorial wall, which is a half-scale replica of Maya Lin’s original design located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, will be exhibited on the grounds of Montpelier from May 26 to May 30. Visiting hours will be 24 hours per day, except during special ceremonies. Admission is free, and all are encouraged to attend. Thirteen thousand people are expected to visit the memorial over the 5-day period.
The Moving Wall – the first of its kind in 1984 – has been touring the country for over 30 years, offering thousands who would never have the chance to get to Washington, DC, the opportunity to witness this important American monument. Over the years The Moving Wall has been exhibited in Staceyville, Madawaska, Sherman Station, Wilton, Lincoln, Old Orchard Beach, and Elliot, Maine, but online records indicate this will be its first appearance in midcoast Maine.
“When your organization is named after one of America's first soldiers and veterans, Henry Knox, you know the military are some of your main people, and you want to do whatever you can to honor them,” says Knox Museum’s Executive Director, Tobin Malone, who has been lobbying for 3 years to get the wall.
The Moving Wall stands 252 feet long and 6 feet tall, and displays the names of 58,228 Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam, including 13 from Knox County, 8 from Lincoln County, 6 from Waldo County, and 4 from Sagadahoc County. In total, there are 343 Maine names inscribed on the memorial.
Bringing The Moving Wall to Montpelier is a massive undertaking, requiring regrading of Montpelier's property, construction of a 252' long platform on which to mount the wall, installation of 2 stages with special lighting and sound equipment, multiple tents, handicapped walkways and access, remote parking, shuttle service, 24-hour security, grief counselors, sanitary facilities, meals for volunteers, name-rubbing and other educational materials for schoolchildren, major publicity - the list goes on.
Currently sponsors and volunteers are being sought to join the grassroots community effort. A steering committee has been formed and is meeting twice a month. The next meetings are Tuesday, February 16 and Tuesday, March 1, at 6 pm at Cole House, the Museum’s administration building, just next to Montpelier on the route one side. Interested parties are welcome to attend. Interest in The Moving Wall to date has been phenomenal, including key sponsorships from Camden National Bank, Acadia Trust, Linda and Diane Bean, Maritime Energy, and Bank of America – although more are needed; and groups like the Portland Sea Cadets, Topsham Troop 202 Boy Scouts, and the crew of the USS Zumwalt “reporting for duty.”
An opening night ceremony with visiting dignitaries and VIP’s – to which the Governor and Mrs. LePage and others have been and will be invited to speak - will recognize the sponsors for the week on Thursday, May 26 at 6 pm, with the 35-member Medomak Valley High School Chorus performing, in between brief remarks from a seated panel of dignitaries.
On Saturday, May 28, at the Museum’s fifth-annual Boots on the Ground signature event, Vincent Gabriel, well-known local Vietnam vet and front man for the band Blind Albert, will cover some of the better-known anthems from what has been called "the rock and roll" war, as well as perform some of his own moving first-person original songs about Vietnam like Draft Card, 11 Bravo Vietnam, and Back to the World. Right alongside Vince Gabriel’s rock band, Conductor Janna Hymes and her 43-piece classical orchestra, Maine Pro Musica, will perform orchestral renditions of Jim Morrison and The Doors' The Unknown Soldier and Light My Fire, as well as Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, with brief remarks in between from former director of Maine’s Bureau of Veterans Services LT COL (ret) Peter W. Ogden; the 101st Airborne Division's 20th Chemical Detachment in Vietnam Commander, LT GEN Dennis Benchoff ; and Knox Museum trustee and CAPT USMC Peter R. Grimm.
All Vietnam combat veterans are being invited to sit on stage for the Boots on the Ground ceremony and be recognized for their service, and include to date along with the 3 speakers named above: former Bates College history professor Christopher Beam, 1st LT USMC, Vietnam, 1968-1969; former University of Maine Comparative Literature Professor and current Chairman of Maine’s Veterans Homes, Robert Whelan, LT COL US ARMY, Vietnam, 1965-69; CAPT Beth Parks, Army nurse in the ORs, 7th Surgical MASH and 12th Evacuation Hospitals, Cu Chi, Vietnam, 1966-67; US Army 1st Cavalry Infantryman Bruce Habel, Vietnam, 1968-69; Chaplain Dave Franclemont, US Navy, Vietnam, 1968-69; Bill Wasson, US Navy, Vietnam, 65-66 and 68-69; Steve Jarett, US Navy, Vietnam; General John “Bill” Libby, field artillery battery commander for the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, Vietnam; and Jane Piper, US Army Nurse, Vietnam.
“The vision of a big stage, set right up against the imposing front exterior of Montpelier, with hundreds of people gathered on the front lawn of the landmark building and The Moving Wall partly visible on the back lawn, listening to rock and roll and classical music and speeches from generals to regular GI’s – well, that’s what we like to call history, at Knox Museum,” says Malone.
A special ceremony for Gold Star families will be hosted by Adria Horn, Director of Maine’s Bureau of Veteran Services on Sunday, May 29, at 2 pm, with details to follow.
The names of Maine’s 343 men whose names appear on the memorial will be read in sunset ceremonies each evening. There will be a series of 5 o’clock workshops for vets on VA medical enrollment, Agent Orange, PTSD, and state benefits; and a mobile 38-foot motor coach community outreach vehicle (COV) from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Center’s outreach program will be parked at Montpelier around the clock all week, providing outreach, and information and counseling to veterans.
Also in the mix is a planned exhibit at Montpelier featuring US Army Captain Beth Parks’ photographs from her deployment serving as a nurse in Vietnam, entitled “Blood, Dust & Mud.” Knox Museum Collections Manager and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, Matthew J. Hansbury, hopes to re-create a sense of Captain Parks’ “hooch,” or living quarters, in the exhibition space, with the Corea, Maine resident providing some of her belongings from that time.
Finally, on Memorial Day proper – Monday, May 30 – a ceremony is planned at 5 pm, which will open up the focus to veterans of all America’s wars, honoring everyone from Henry Knox in the American Revolution, to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today. And in between, for 24 hours per day most days, The Moving Wall will be open for the public to visit and absorb.
Malone emphasizes that this is a community event, and Knox Museum is open and eager to entertain ideas for participation from the public. No commercial activities will be allowed, however, and it should be noted that this exhibition is a solemn occasion, designed to honor the military of all generations, and in particular, those who gave their lives in Vietnam.
On Saturday, March 19, from 7 to 10 pm, a special benefit will be held at the Elks Lodge, at 210 Rankin Street in Rockland, featuring Blind Albert Band, a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle, and a cash bar, to help raise funds to bring The Moving Wall to Thomaston. Tickets are $10, and will be available at the door.