WELLINGTON — A small but dedicated group assembled for the closing ceremony of the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall on Monday afternoon.
Although attendance was less than for the opening ceremony Thursday, the respect was just as overwhelming.
The Amherst Veterans Military Honor Guard led the presentation of colors, followed by the last reading of the 98 Lorain County Vietnam veterans who died in the war. Brant Smith, Wellington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6941 quartermaster and one of the main organizers of the event, gave the last words before the closing prayer.
“I truly love all of our Vietnam veterans, these men are my heroes, these men are the reason that myself and so many other young men of my generation have served our country because of these men and women that paved the way for us,” he said.
From Thursday to Monday, the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., allowed local residents and visitors to see the names of fallen family and friends from the Vietnam War. Through the five-day event, the wall had multiple readings, a candlelight vigil and other acts of respect. On Saturday, the wall had a pinning ceremony for Vietnam veterans.
After the ceremony Monday, the wall was open to the public until 4 p.m. before volunteers started dismantling it.
Volunteers stayed around the clock for the wall’s display. Vietnam veteran and volunteer Ray Gannett said he spent every day and every night at the wall. He spent most of his time helping with the upkeep of the area, offering help to visitors in the day and security at night. The only time he spent away from the wall was to take short naps or drive his wife back home, he said.
Gannett heard of the Moving Wall last week at the Wellington Eagles Aerie 2051, where he is a member. He said he felt he needed to provide service for the wall. The veteran volunteer served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1972, serving in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. He said working at the wall had been extremely therapeutic for him and his recovery from the grief he experienced from the Vietnam War. Gannett said it was surprising when a woman asked him about Vietnam — what the locals were like or what the weather was like. He said he never thought about those parts of his memories until then.
Although he was not a part of the Wellington VFW, he said the time he spent at the wall has motivated him to join.
Gannett spent the last few hours looking over the wall to find several names, including the name of 1st Sgt. Charles Sellers, Gannett’s sergeant, who died in Vietnam. The worst part, he said, was that he died at the hands of his own soldiers. It was through his work at the wall he said, that he even remembered his name Monday.
“I had a first sergeant in Vietnam who was killed over there,” he said. “I get out of bed at 6 o’clock this morning, Sgt. Sellers. I knew his name just like that.”
Sellers, he said, would yell at him and his fellow soldiers for any infraction they made. Gannett said it was believed Sellers’ behavior as a stickler for the rules drove others to retaliate.
“I don’t care how bad or rough things are, you don’t deserve to do that to your own brother,” he said.
Gannett said he also rubbed the name of David Amheiser, a classmate of his from Cloverleaf High School in Lodi, who died in service. When Gannett attends his high school reunion, he said he’ll bring the paper with Amheiser’s name rubbed on it so he can join the rest of his class.
The wall is made of two sections, each measuring 126.5 feet long and 7 feet tall. It has toured the country for more than 30 years, according to www.themoving wall.org. The idea to bring the Moving Wall to Wellington came from Fran Brooks, president of the Wellington VFW Auxiliary.
The event received assistance from the Wellington American Legion Post 8, the Ohio Veterans Fraternal Charitable Coalition, Huntington AMVETS Post 162, Amherst American Legion Post 118 and North Olmsted VFW Post 7647.
The wall will go back to White Pine, Michigan, where the organization for the wall is headquartered before going to the next location on its tour.
For more information about the wall, visit www.themovingwall.org. For more information about the event, call the Wellington VFW at (440) 647-3035.