Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Moving Wall Comes to Bethel

Bethel is proudly hosting The Moving Wall for the next five days. For those of you unfamiliar with it, The Moving Wall is a traveling half-sized replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was created in 1984, as a means of sharing the incredibly moving experience of the Memorial with people throughout our nation who may never travel to the nation's capital to see this amazing monument to the men and women who died in the Vietnam War.

Bringing The Wall to Bethel was particularly challenging, since it had to come by air freight. A hardworking group of Bethel residents began the planning for this event months ago; the VFW and the American Legion were instrumental in bringing it about. The Wall only arrived this morning, hours before the opening ceremonies.

Despite cold, cloudy weather, a good-sized crowd came out for the opening ceremonies, which were very nice. A color guard from the Bethel JROTC presented the American flag and the Alaska state flag, and the veteran's groups raised the POW/MIA flag and a flag honoring Those Who Serve.



The national anthem and America The Beautiful were sung a capella by two young women, and the Alaska state song was sung in Yupik by a group of young Eskimo women in traditional dress. The chilliness of the day made me wish I had on fur mukluks like theirs!


There was an invocation by the Catholic priest, a proclamation read by Bethel's mayor, and several local dignitaries who spoke of the contributions made by Alaskans in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the war in Iraq.



Bethel's veterans were recognized by service and asked to stand for applause. Dutch was among these, as a retired Captain of the US Coast Guard (that's an O6, for you military-savvy types). He was asked to stand a second time as a department head for Bethel city government who was a member of the committee to bring The Moving Wall to Bethel. I was very proud of him!

The main guest speaker for the event was former governor and Vietnam veteran Tony Knowles. He spoke of the incredible impact of the war on the American psyche, the difficulty of returning service people to a country who opposed the war they had fought, and the anguish of families who lost children to the war with no sense that the country valued that sacrifice. He spoke of the Memorial as the avenue of healing for a generation torn apart by that war.






I have visited the Memorial in Washington, D.C., and it is an incredible experience. It is powerful, and deeply touching, though I did not personally know anyone who fought in Viet Nam. The Memorial is something every American should visit if they have the opportunity; for those who can't get to our nation's capital, The Moving Wall is a good second best. It does not have the devastating impact of the original, but nothing could. It comes close enough. When it comes to your community, make an effort to go and see it. It really is important. The healing of our nation over this war continues thirty years after it ended, and will for many years to come. We are each one a part of that.



Anonymous Becky said...

I have really been enjoying your stories of life and medicine in Alaska. Thank you.

On the Moving Wall - thanks for sharing this too. My father's name is on the wall. I remember seeing the one in DC in 87. It was incredibly moving. I was just a small child when he died but seeing his name there with all the others, no better and no worse - just a soldier doing his best, was very healing.

A few years later, I visited the Moving Wall in Rochester, NY with my mother. The feeling was not as profound for me as the first time but again, the healing came as I stood with her and we shared the loss together.

The Moving Wall is such a wonderful thing. My father was born in Texas, memorialized and DC and mourned in NY. Now, his name travels with others to bring healing as it was brought to us.

Sunday, July 02, 2006 7:51:00 AM  
Blogger TheTundraPA said...

Becky--thank you so much for sharing this; it brings tears to my eyes. I am so glad you were able to experience the healing brought by both the true Wall and the Moving Wall, and the comfort that your father's name is part of the healing that comes to all who see it. May he rest in the peace that his sacrifice is honored now.

Sunday, July 02, 2006 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous wolfbaby said...

Simply amazing!!!

Sunday, July 02, 2006 9:51:00 PM  
Blogger I am a Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

That is SO COOL that the wall is in Alaska--and in Bethel. Thanks for this post.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006 9:25:00 PM  
Anonymous mchebert said...

I have seen the real Vietnam memorial several times and it never ceases to affect me. It is hidden in a corner on the Mall near the Washington Monument. If you are not looking for it you will miss it completely.

Last year I also saw the WWII Memorial. It is stylized and pompous and, while awe inspiring in a way, has nothing of the traquil understatement of the Vietnam Memorial.

The Vietnam Memorial is proof that understatement can be more powerful than grandiosity. I hope everyone who gazes at that magnificent wall takes that message away with them.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 7:16:00 AM  
Blogger irish said...

Hello from "Baa Habba" Maine. The wall containes the names of two of my friends . I was dissapointed that the pic wasn't of my not post the picture puzzles me?The first time I saw the wall I was searching for the name of my friend and could not find it, emotion overwhelmed me.. and just when I thought all was lost the sun put a ray on the monument right at the name..very very powerful moment for me....

Saturday, July 29, 2006 1:01:00 AM  
Blogger TheTundraPA said...

irish--wow, what an amazing story. Powerful, indeed! I hope you saw the following post, Photo Addendum to the Moving Wall.

Saturday, July 29, 2006 11:02:00 AM  

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