GLADSTONE - The American Veterans Traveling Tribute Wall has only been a feature of Van Cleve Park for a few days but it has already left a mark on the people of Gladstone and the surrounding area.
Many of the visitors are looking for the names of loved ones and family members. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. volunteers are available to help visitors find names on the Wall.
"The way it works is that anyone who is looking for a loved one or a name they know can come up to us. It's all done alphabetically here in the book, and we search for it it, and then we give them the coordinates of where they are," said volunteer Rick Micheau.
Ilsa Matthes | Daily Press
Visitors from all over the area have visited the American Veterans Traveling Tribute’s Traveling Vietnam Wall this week. The Wall has been in Gladstone’s Van Cleve Park since Tuesday and will continue to be available until Saturday evening.
The panels are numbered based on their location from the east side or west side of the Wall. Visitors are given the panel and line number of a name. Just like on the original wall, every 10th line is marked with a bullet-point.
Volunteers also provide paper so visitors can keep a memento of the Wall and their loved ones. "They can take this etching paper and we send them with this pencil and they can etch the names if they like," said Micheau.
All volunteers work in four hour shifts. There are 16 volunteers operating the name location booth throughout the week. Another 48 volunteers are making sure that the Wall is under constant guard.
"It took the workings of a lot of individuals to put this together and make it go strong, but Gladstone has always been very good with the veterans," said Mike Falcon, volunteer and member of the Veteran's Memorial Wall committee. "They've always had the support of our local government and the like."
The Wall has only been in the park for a few days, but its effects on visitors are evident.
"I think it was the very first day we had the Wall here, we had just set it up, there was an older gentleman, he was sitting in his car waiting for it to be put up, and he came out and went right to the Wall. He touched the Wall, and he went over here and said, 'I'm a veteran,' and cried," said Falcon. "If nothing else, that was worth it."
Many of the visitors are veterans or the families of the deceased. However some are searching for people they never met or barely knew.
"A lady I taught with, her husband was killed in Vietnam just before we moved up here in 1968, and basically she was the only one that I knew that had lost somebody in Vietnam," said Jody Harrison.
A number of ceremonies and events are being held at the Wall to honor veterans. A POW Table Ceremony will be presented by the Carney Nadeau American Legion at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. A flag ceremony will follow and the flag will be presented to Sunny LaCosse, who lost his brother in Vietnam. Red, white, and blue balloons will be released following the flag ceremony, and at 8 p.m. the Patriot Guard Riders will present a Ride of Honor ceremony. At 9 p.m. the colors will be retired and Taps will be played.
The Fourth of July fireworks display has been rescheduled for around 10 p.m. Friday evening. Visitors will be able to view the Wall and the fireworks at the same time, however the name location booth will be closed.
Saturday's ceremonies will begin at 9 a.m. with the Posting of Colors. An invocation will be given by master of ceremonies Michael O'Neal. The Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, and America the Beautiful will be sung by Macy Neumeir and Travis Dubord. Vietnam veterans Jim Caszette, Benny Herioux, and Bob Mineau will speak.
At 7 p.m. a benediction will be given by Thure Dhalgren of American Legion Post 71 and the Colors will be retrieved. The Wall itself will be taken down at 8 p.m.