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‘For which we pray’

Moving Wall opening raises emotional response

Joshua Roberts

If you go

Moving Wall schedule of events:

• Today:

- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aircraft display of UH-1 (Huey) by Vietnam pilots

- Sunset. Taps

• Saturday:

- 11 a.m. Official ceremony. Included are a presentation of the colors by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, opening prayer by Pastor Bob Woods, post colors by VFW, national anthem by bagpiper David Murphy, Pledge of Allegiance, speaker State Sen. Jack Taylor, special recognition by Christina Currie, closing prayer by Woods, and taps/ "Amazing Grace" by David Mundy.

- 11:30 a.m. F-16 flyover

- Sunset. Taps

• Sunday:

- Sunset. Taps

• Monday:

- Noon. Closing ceremony, retire colors by VFW, Taps, and Moving Wall take down.

If you go

Moving Wall schedule of events:

• Today:

– 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aircraft display of UH-1 (Huey) by Vietnam pilots

– Sunset. Taps

• Saturday:

– 11 a.m. Official ceremony. Included are a presentation of the colors by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, opening prayer by Pastor Bob Woods, post colors by VFW, national anthem by bagpiper David Murphy, Pledge of Allegiance, speaker State Sen. Jack Taylor, special recognition by Christina Currie, closing prayer by Woods, and taps/ “Amazing Grace” by David Mundy.

– 11:30 a.m. F-16 flyover

– Sunset. Taps

• Sunday:

– Sunset. Taps

• Monday:

– Noon. Closing ceremony, retire colors by VFW, Taps, and Moving Wall take down.

— The names of 58,000-plus American soldiers glistened Thursday morning off black panels in a dusty, sun-baked corner of Loudy-Simpson Park.

The park will serve as an emotional epicenter the next several days as it doubles as a temporary home to a tribute honoring the fallen men and women – and those missing in action – from the Vietnam War.

For those searching for a reason behind the soldier’s “ultimate sacrifice,” the answer wasn’t hard to find.

Against the backdrop of the morning’s Moving Wall opening ceremony were mothers and fathers playing with their children on the park’s jungle gyms and swing sets; on ball fields near the park’s entrance teams of youngsters competed in the country’s favorite pasttime, baseball.

And within a stone’s throw of the memorial flew the American flag, its broad stripes and bright stars blowing gently in the breeze to the sounds of the national anthem and the “Armed Forces Medley.”

More than 200 local residents bowed their heads and listened quietly as Pastor Bob Woods issued a benediction asking God to safeguard the dead and hold near their families, who paid their own toll in defense of the country.

“God,” Woods said to the crowd, “let this monument and this ceremony forever remind us that we will come together to mourn our dead; we will come together to reach out to our wounded; we will come together to remember and honor our brave.

“Only then may we have the vision to dream our dream again. Only then may we have the faith to pray our prayers again. Only then may we have the courage to march our march again, to stand together again to make this the kind of country in the kind of world for which we pray.”

The Moving Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., contains the names of 58,253 soldiers who perished, or are still MIA, during the war in southeast Asia. The memorial was designed to re-create the spirit captured by the national monument in the nation’s capital.

“Yesterday, the Yampa Valley echoed with the stoic sounds of the motorcycle motorcade escorting the Moving Wall to our community,” Craig mayor Don Jones said. “The sounds of the motorcade signified the arrival of a monument symbolizing the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. The city of Craig is honored and blessed to host this memorial.”

For many, the wall elicited the emotional response it was intended to.

“Too many damn names,” said Michael Lausin, while facing the wall’s center section. “Too many damn friends.”

To the left, Craig resident Carrie Floyd stood with her 5-year-old son, Mitchell, in front of the panel containing the name of Gale S. Pritchard, a 23-year-old who died fighting in Vietnam.

Mitchell, a kinetic, blond-haired youngster, would have rather been at the Moffat County Fair. His momma wanted him at her side, though, paying homage to the late city son.

“It’s more important for me for him to be here,” she said, as tears streamed behind her sunglasses. “It’s a real important part of our history, and it’s important for him to try to know and appreciate it.”

Floyd’s older son, 20-year-old Brady Floyd, is currently serving in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. He has been in the Middle East since Jan. 2.

“It’s hard,” she said. “It’s very difficult for a lot of people. But, it’s important for things like this to happen.”

Craig resident Susie Begam-Violette brought a bundle of flowers, aptly enough they were violets, to lay at the memorial in honor of her father, the late J. Arthur Begam, a World War II veteran. Next month marks the sixth anniversary of her father’s passing.

Although her father didn’t fight in Vietnam, Begam-Violette said the Moving Wall still provided her a platform to honor him. He supported the war effort and, more specifically, the men and women who fought it.

“It was (his) country,” Begam-Violette said, “right or wrong.”

Beth Gilchrist, who earlier in the ceremony sang the national anthem and the “Armed Forces Medley” with three other members of the Hometown Harmony group, has seen the national Vietnam monument. Still, the past experience does little to soften the emotions brought upon by the Moving Wall.

“It really is a powerful icon,” she said. “You study about this, but when you see it, you think, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s real.'”

Jones implored local residents to take time and appreciate the Moving Wall, and specifically the sacrifices made by the soldiers. Their blood paid for the freedoms Americans enjoy today, he said.

“Over the next five days, the citizens of Craig and Northwest Colorado have the opportunity to reflect and remind ourselves of the ultimate sacrifice made by our fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers,” Jones said. “Each name listed on the Moving Wall is a solemn reminder of the heroic effort of that soldier to preserve the liberties we enjoy as United States citizens – liberties that we too often take for granted.

“These names represent individuals willing to sacrifice their lives to preserve our freedom.”

In his closing prayer, Woods joined the crowd in asking that Vietnam veterans – those living in this world and the next – be blessed with grace.

“These heroes are very special people, and are among the greatest war heroes in American history,” he said.

“God, give them comfort. Give them peace.”


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