When the Moving Wall came to Ellwood City on Saturday morning I was in my office. When I heard the police siren I looked out the window and watched the long line of motorcycles escorting the Moving Wall to Ewing Park. The sight evoked a sad emotion knowing what it symbolizes and a good feeling when I thought of my friend, Dom Viccari, who died in April, and how it was his plan to bring the Moving Wall back to Ellwood City.
I am grateful to the American Legion Post and all those who worked so hard to bring the Wall to our community.
My friends Kathy Phillips and Tammy Herb and I went to the opening ceremonies in Ewing Park at the entertainment stage along with hundreds of other people. It was a joy to see so many people and get a hug or two.
When I went to see the Moving Wall, I learned that it is called the Moving Wall, not only because it moves from city to city, but it moves people when they see, touch and experience it.
More:Moved: Hundreds visit Moving Wall in Ellwood City
Bob Morabito was the master of ceremonies and the Boy Scouts raised the flag while the Civic Chorale sang our national anthem. It was a solemn moment and I thought many of the young men who died in Vietnam were only a few years older than the Boy Scouts.
The Rev. Steve Plyler from the Bell Memorial Presbyterian gave the invocation, Mayor Anthony Court welcomed people to the event and the Civic Chorale graced us with special music. I hope someone recorded Rocky Bleier's special remarks because they were significant. The Beaver Lawrence Honor Guard fired three volleys followed by Taps. Morabito said that tradition dates back to when the battles would stop and both sides would collect their dead. The three volleys signified that the dead had been properly cared for.
After the ceremony, people viewed the wall, some searching for names or making tracings and others just in awe of the monument to the 58,000 names on the memorial. There were eight women, all nurses, among the 58,000 who died.
As I look at the names on the wall at first there are just a few and as I walked along there are more and more names until it is overwhelming to know that every name is a person, a young person with hopes and dreams, who died. The vast majority were drafted, answering the call of our nation. I can't imagine the pain of their parents and families.
At the event, I got the booklet about the Moving Wall and as I looked at the pictures of the young men who did not get to live out their hopes and dreams it is impossible to fully comprehend the devastation their loss is to their families and communities.
A week before the event, Morabito had talked about the wall on my radio show so I knew a little bit about it. He mentioned that people who had the POW/MIA bracelets could bring them to the wall and would be able to see whether the person whose name was on the bracelet had survived the war or not.
The bracelets were introduced in the late 1960s by a now-defunct organization, Voices in Vital America (VIVA), and sold for $2.50 or $3. The purpose of the bracelets was, and is, to increase public awareness about the plight of Americans still prisoners, missing, and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The organization sold millions of bracelets.
Back then I got one of the bracelets with Capt. Lynn Huddleston's name and eventually I stopped wearing it, but I could never bring myself to throw it away so it was in my jewelry box. By searching the web I learned a bit about Lynn Huddleston including that he was a member of the 74th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion. On Sept. 26, 1967, he was the pilot of a Cessna Bird Dog Observation Aircraft (O-1A) on a visual reconnaissance of the Minh Than area. He died in the crash and his body was not recovered.
I looked at his picture and read more about the 32-year-old man from Texas and learned he was married.
Years before I put the bracelet in my jewelry box and forgot about it, but as I read about Lynn Huddleston I knew his wife and other family members never forgot.
It is important for all of us to remember the price, which is beyond measure, is the cost of freedom.