The Moving Wall can be a healing place for Vietnam veterans
Pvt. Thomas Andrew Putman, 20, U.S. Army, Toledo.
Warrant Officer Allen John Dyer, 21, U.S. Army Reserves, Toledo.
Warrant Officer Karl Thomas Anteau, 21, U.S. Army Reserves, Toledo.
Specialist Arthur Heringhausen, 18, U.S. Army, Oregon.
PFC. Esiquio (Arnie) Cantu, 19, U.S. Army, Bono.
I went to school with the first three men on this list. The next two were decorated for their heroism. Heringhausen was awarded the Silver Star for his actions when his unit was overrun. Cantu was awarded a Bronze Star with V Device for Valor. All five were killed in action and have their names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
Putman lived a block away and stood up for me in a neighborhood fight. Lee Roberts, the fellow soldier who identified the body after Putman died of multiple fragmentation wounds, left this message on the site: “This hero had just returned from R & R in Hawaii. He was in high spirit. They were overrun by NVAs. I had left the field to begin my processing to return to the states. I identified his body when it was brought in. Putman was a very good soldier.”
There are 58,209 names on The Wall, 253 from Northwest Ohio, said Ron Distel, commissioner of the Ottawa County Veterans Service Commission. Closer to home, there are names from Oregon, Pemberville, Gibsonburg, Oak Harbor and Lindsey. Distel is leading the effort to bring The Moving Wall, a replica of the monument in Washington D.C., to Elmore August 9 to 13. He and his fellow members of American Legion Post 279 of Elmore have raised some $11,000 of their $15,000 goal. The money is needed to house the driver, build a temporary foundation for the wall, erect tents, prepare Depot Park in downtown Elmore and provide security.
The half-scale exhibit is 256 feet long and is one of four Moving Walls that are transported across the country. This one is owned by the Vietnam Combat Veterans based in White Pine, Michigan.
Distel said The Moving Wall will arrive in the area Thursday, August 9 accompanied by nearly 250 vehicles including six veterans’ motorcycle groups and state and local law enforcement vehicles. The parade route will come through S.R. 163 into Oak Harbor and also use S.R. 51 as it passes through Genoa on its way to Elmore.
Visitors will be provided with a carpenter’s crayon and paper should they choose to transfer a name on the wall for a keepsake. Volunteers from area veterans’ groups will man ledgers to direct visitors to the correct section of the wall. The site will be lighted and manned 24-hours-a-day. Tents will be erected for protection from inclement weather and escorts will be available for those who need help.
Distel, an Air Force veteran who served a year at Tonsonhut Air Base in South Vietnam, tried two other times to bring The Moving Wall to the area, but a scheduling conflict and demand from other communities stymied his efforts. The popular exhibit has drawn 10,000 to 15,000 visitors to some communities.
Distel is motivated for two reasons: one is personal, one educational. He explains, “I got a lot of buddies on that wall…It’s a healing thing. Of the 2.7 million who served in Vietnam no one said to them, ‘Welcome back,’ or ‘Thank you,’ or nothing. These guys didn’t get to come home at all and I think we got to honor them.
“I encourage Mom and Dad to bring their children. They can see the terrible cost of war without going to Arlington. They can see the lives that were just taken away. Today’s kids aren’t even taught about the Vietnam War. They don’t know how devastating it was to a lot of families.”
Randy Velliquette, The Harmonica Man, will emcee opening ceremonies. Distel is still seeking sponsors, volunteers and entertainment. You can contact him at 419-862-2344 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to donate, send a check payable to Elmore American Legion Post 279, c/o Ron Distel, 2010 S. Nissen Rd., Elmore, OH 43416. You can also visit themovingwall.com or thewall-usa.com. Comment at email@example.com