Vietnam memorial replica coming to Fairgrounds

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By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter

A traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica known as “The Wall That Heals” will be open to the public around the clock during a four-day stint this fall at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds in Essex.

Hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6689 in Essex, the wall carries the names of all United States military members killed in the Vietnam War. It travels to help people who can’t make it to see the original memorial in Washington D.C. pay their respects. Its last appearance in Essex was in 2001, according to retired Vermont Air National Guard Colonel Vince Benevento, who is helping to organize the event for the VFW.

The display will run Oct. 1-4, with Post 6689 leading ceremonies the first and last day and Colchester’s American Legion Post 91 taking the lead Oct. 2. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 829 of Essex Junction will lead ceremonies Oct. 3. The Vermont Legislature passed a resolution earlier this year, sponsored by the five-member Essex delegation to the House of Representatives, that Oct. 1-4, 2015 are “The Wall That Heals Days in Vermont.”

“The names of the over 110 Vermonters who perished while serving in Vietnam and who will never again see the Green Mountains are enshrined on that wall,” the resolution reads.

The wall is a half-scale replica of the memorial in Washington.

“It’s a great idea to bring it here,” Essex Selectboard chairman Max Levy said during a board meeting earlier this month. Levy recalled a trip to Washington during which he sought out the name of a soldier from his hometown on the memorial: “I found it, and it was very moving,” he said.

Each of the 58,220 soldiers who died in Vietnam will be recognized with a name reading while the replica wall is in Essex. Organizers at the VFW are currently looking for volunteers to read names. Benevento said a different reader will read 15 names every 15 minutes. Also, the name of every Vermonter killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be read every half hour.

The wall will be open to the public 24 hours a day, guarded by VFW and American Legion veterans during the overnight hours. The VFW will be open 24 hours a day during the event offering beverages and restrooms, said Benevento.