A personal tribute | CraigDailyPress.com

A personal tribute

Rohrich, other locals help bring Moving Wall to remember veterans, show city

Collin Smith

If you go

What: Moving Wall, a miniature replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

When: 11 a.m. Thursday to 11 a.m. Aug. 13, 24 hours a day

Where: Loudy-Simpson Park

— After serving 22 years in the U.S. Air Force – including time spent in Ankara, Turkey, during the conflict in nearby Beirut, Lebanon – The Memorial Hospital CEO George Rohrich is still unsure of what exactly the Vietnam Veterans Memorial means to him, or anybody.

“The memorial itself has an atmosphere about it, something very solemn,” Rohrich said. “It makes you think about all those people, at once, who gave their lives for this country.”

Rohrich helped bring the Moving Wall to Craig as much for the city, the veterans and those who have never seen it as he does for his own personal tribute.

“It affects everyone. I think as a vet, you get a heightened sense of respect and admiration,” he said. “It’s hard to describe what it is to be deployed overseas, the good and the bad.”

The Moving Wall is a replica of the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It travels around the country from April to November each year.

Rohrich’s family has a tradition of military service, dating back to his great-grandparents, who fought for the Russian army in the late 1800s against the Turks in the Dead Sea. His uncles served in Vietnam, but are not on the wall, as they survived the conflict.

Rohrich did not serve in Vietnam. He joined the Air Force in 1978, but the impact of that war was so heavy on the country it still has ripples today, he said.

“When I came in, most of the people I trained and worked with were veterans of Vietnam,” he said. “It shaped all of us at that time, it was such a significant moment in our country’s history.”

This is the third time Rohrich has helped bring the Moving Wall to his community. For the hospital he managed in Worland, Wyo., Rohrich led the process much like he has in Craig.

The memorial’s application process isn’t competitive as much as it is logistical. For the Memorial Fund, the wall’s governing body, allowing every American to see the memorial is its greatest obligation.

But sometimes that means cities have to wait for the next year, and the next tour, if the Moving Wall is moving somewhere else already. It did not come to Colorado all of last year.

Craig faced such a dilemma when the Memorial Fund released its 2007 schedule in January.

Rohrich applied for the memorial to be here Memorial Day, to play opposite Grand Old West Days, to be a huge weekend for Craig.

But the city wasn’t chosen.

Except there was a hole in the schedule, and it was right between the southwest and Cripple Creek.

“We weren’t picked up right away, but with this hole in the schedule, I just kept picking up the phone and kept pestering them until they gave in,” Rohrich said. “It will be so great for Craig and the people here. We can just drop down to Loudy-Simpson, and there it is.”

Although the hospital is the Moving Wall’s lead sponsor in Craig, Rohrich refuses to take credit.

“It’s not just me or the hospital. I want to make that perfectly clear,” Rohrich said. “We didn’t have a bunch of time, but we have a great group of people who know what they’re doing and have done a great job.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 in Craig has raised about $6,000, and many of its members will help provide the 24-hour security and help build the base the memorial will stand on and the lights for its presentation.

New VFW President Dave Walters served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, and served during the Tet Offensive. To him, the memorial is for the fallen, and it helps heal the wounds suffered after coming home.

“It’s all for the brothers who were lost over there,” Walters said. “In the ’60s and ’70s, people hated Vietnam. A lot of us were treated badly when we came back. Now, people seem to realize that it was a war, that the boys who were there deserve honor. The wall helps show that.”

Walters visited the wall in 1996 when it came to Meeker, but has not been to the original in Washington, D.C. The VFW now has more Vietnam veterans than veterans from World War II, but all the members, regardless of their service, are excited to see the wall when it arrives, Walters said.

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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