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Archive for Sunday, September 30, 2001

Memorial tours through DeSoto

September 30, 2001

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— In the aftermath of the nation's tragedies in New York and Washington, D.C., people may find solace in a piece of history visiting Kansas.

The Moving Wall, a half-sized replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., will arrive today in DeSoto's Miller Park. The wall's black slabs, like the original, contain the names of the 58,191 Americans who died in the war from 1961 to 1975.

"It's an icon that you reflect on and you can meditate on," said DeSoto's VFW 6654 Post Commander Rocky Hughes. "Hopefully, it will help people who come out here."

Opening ceremonies will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday and will include a musical tribute by DeSoto High School's band and choirs.

Activities are planned every day and will conclude with VFW Family Day on Oct. 7. The Presentation of Colors will kick off the daily events at 9 a.m.

Hughes, who served in Vietnam as a Marine sergeant and squad leader in 1970-71, said the first five days will honor the five branches of the U.S. military. Unfortunately, he said, some military personnel who planned to participate in the activities cannot attend.

"We're losing some of our military support with the national situation, so we're trying to fill the gaps with other volunteers," he said.

Hughes said local students will be ambassadors and help people locate names. DeSoto's Boy Scout troops, City of DeSoto, Marine Corps League of Shawnee and others also are assisting.

Planning for the wall started four years ago when the VFW and its Auxiliary submitted an application to the Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. Hughes said the VFW members were hopeful they would secure a date out of the hundreds of applications.

"We put our application in, and we waited four years," he said. "We were contacted about eight months ago and picked three dates. We picked this date in October hoping we would have a nice Indian summer."

Hughes said he is proud the memorial wall is coming to town, and he hopes hundreds of people will come to pay tribute to the veterans.

"The wall be open 24 hours for anyone to come, and we will maintain a 24-hour watch on it," he said.

The wall, which has been touring the country for 17 years, will be traveling to DeSoto from Joliet, Ill.

One of the memorial walls, the "Healing Wall," stopped in Kansas City last year.

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