DICKINSON — The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It has been touring the country for just shy of four decades, spending a few days to a week at each stop in its journey between April and November of each year.
The idea for this replica came about as the original was unveiled to the public. John Devitt attended the dedication ceremony in 1982 and was so awestruck that he vowed to provide that experience to other Americans who weren’t able to travel to the National Mall. A small troop of volunteers helped him turn his vision into reality two years later.
The memorial will be on display in Dickinson and open to the public at Veterans Memorial Park from August 18-22. An opening ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 18. Speakers will include Vietnam War veterans Ray Nay and Dave Logosz, as well as U.S. Army veteran Ed Dick.
The ceremony’s emcee, Tom Coons, is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a member of the District 8 American Legion Riders. The group consists of bikers within the American Legion who volunteer in their community. Coons and his fellow District 8 riders are particularly focused on helping local veterans.
“There are actually a few other ones. But the other traveling walls are walls for-profit,” Coons said. “This company that we went with is a nonprofit, and their goal is to give money back and help veterans in need.”
He added that it’s important to offer citizens across the country a chance to see and read some of the 58,220 names of men who heroically sacrificed their lives to fight the evils of communism in Southeast Asia.
“There are a lot of people in America that have, and I’m one of them, who’ve never had an opportunity to see the real wall in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “We just felt that here in Dickinson, our veterans memorial would be an ideal spot to display it and give people the opportunity to experience it.”
He emphasized that it’s an emotionally moving experience, especially for those who will see the names of their loved ones.
“We will have volunteers assisting people to find the names of their friends and relatives,” Coons said. “It’s just a very humbling experience… What you’re doing is walking through a cemetery and it’s a very emotional feeling.”
Stark County soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam include John W. Brinkmeyer, Norbert L. Froehlich, Francis E. Geiger, Douglas M. Kelly, Michael H. Kessel, David J. Kuhn, Dennis L. Meduna, Jon P. Robbins and Charles D. Wendt.
Logosz said he knew eight of these nine men personally, two of whom graduated from Dickinson High School the same year he did.
An E-5 Sergeant with a military occupational specialty as a sniper, Logosz is a Purple Heart recipient for his U.S. Army service in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. Logosz was instrumental in the planning and development of the Stark County Veterans’ memorial.
Nearly a decade ago he set out on that mission — to properly recognize the sacrifices of every Stark County veteran going all the way back to the Civil War. The memorial was completed in 2015, and the pavilion building in 2019.
Logosz was astonished at the generosity of the Western Edge community, with both projects funded completely by donations. They cost a combined $1.7 million. He had originally envisioned what became the veterans pavilion as a modest picnic area. It turned out to be a beautiful indoor community gathering space managed by the city. Veterans groups use it free and it’s available for rent to the general public.
“After seeing the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C., on the way back I was thinking it’d be really great if we could recognize all the veterans from Stark County. And the idea lay dormant for many years,” he said. “Finally, one person encouraged us, ‘Well, if you’re gonna do it, now’s the time to do it.’ So we went ahead, and it was surprising how everything (came together).”
He credits his wife Cathy for the hardest part of the endeavor. She did countless hours of research to find the names and put them in chronological order. She said it was the project of more than a dozen highly dedicated, mostly senior citizen veteran volunteers, including Art Wanner.
“It’s not just those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Whether you were in the Guard in the 60s or whatever, you served our country and that deserves to be recognized,” she said.
Cathy explained the that the fighter jet in the park is piece left over from the Korean War. It had been in the park for decades and deteriorated over the years until it was restored to its current condition by Fisher Industries. The statue of a saluting soldier was designed by Dickinson sculptor Linda Little, who also designed a three foot bronze piece for the Pentagon.