Vietnam Memorial Wall comes to Orlando

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Vietnam Memorial Wall comes to Orlando

Jeremy Williams

Jeremy Williams

Jeremy Williams

The traveling wall left Orlando on Sunday and will return to Central Florida again in April in Melbourne, Fla.

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The Vietnam Memorial Wall came to Orlando Jan. 16, as a scaled down replica that has visited spots all over the United States for the past 15 years.

The Wall is one of six that travels across the country to raise community awareness of those who served in all of America’s wars. This particular wall was escorted to Lake Eola by a convoy of local veteran motorcycle groups last Monday.

Mayor Buddy Dyer and Jan C. Scruggs, President of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, spoke in front of the miniature memorial on Saturday at Lake Eola for a Call for Photos ceremony, asking residents to donate photographs of each American whose name is etched in The Wall.  Call for Photos is a nationwide effort headed by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

“We need to find the local people who maybe went to high school with them and have some old pictures from the football team, or pictures from people who served with them,” said Scruggs, who served in the 199th Light Infantry in Vietnam from April 1969 to 1970.

According to Scruggs, around 24 pictures were collected from Orlando (out of 96 casualties from the city) and roughly 28,000 nationwide. Donators can directly upload photos of fallen service members to the website buildthecenter.org.

“There’s going to be an underground visitor’s center on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial with photographs of the casualties from Vietnam and their birthday,” said Scruggs. “We’re also going to do the same thing for Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Uniformed Marines and Sailors were interspersed among the crowd of Central Floridians who had gathered for the 11 a.m. event, along with Vietnam veterans sporting patch-decorated vests and regalia.

An olive drab “Deuce-and-a-half” truck and Navy P.B.R. (Patrol Boat, River) were on display, courtesy of the Corporal Larry E. Smedley National Vietnam War Museum on Tanner Road, here in Orlando. Smedley was a Marine in Vietnam who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for leading a squad against a larger enemy force.

“This was a part of the ‘Brown Water Navy,’” said Navy veteran and Director of the Tanner Road museum, Thomas Kosiorek, who was taking a shift watching the P.B.R.. “We only pull these out maybe four times a year.”

The Traveling Wall itself is about five feet tall at its highest point, in contrast to the actual 10 foot Vietnam Memorial at the Constitution Gardens in Washington D.C., which is v-shaped and tapers off at both ends, and is built into a cut in the ground, with a black reflective surface and every name of the over 58,000 fallen Americans from the Vietnam conflict printed in white lettering.

According to Scruggs, this is the first time the Traveling Wall has come to Orlando.

“I think it’s a great experience that everyone should have the opportunity to see,” said Vietnam veteran John Trask, who visits the original memorial in D.C. every year. “If they can’t make it to D.C. to see the real wall itself, this here is just as good, believe me. I have friends on The Wall and I come every opportunity. No matter whether it’s the Traveling Wall or when I go to D.C., I always stop to see them. They’d do that for me.”