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The Vietnam Moving Wall Moves Visitors, Some to Reflection, Some to Tears
The Moving Wall Visits Oconee County for Veterans Day 2017
By Karen Brewer


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Kim Blue, a Vietnam War veteran, is filled with emotion as he visits The Vietnam Moving Wall, on display at the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative office in Westminster for several days for Veterans Day weekend 2017.



“The first gentleman I helped find a name put his hands on it, and he started crying. And that was worth it all.” Janice Matheson Holbrooks, Assistant Director of Oconee County Veterans Affairs, spoke with The Christian View magazine on the first day that the Vietnam Moving Wall was displayed behind Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative’s offices in Westminster, on Thursday, November 9, 2017, the day before the official opening. Visitors had already come, wanting to find names of friends or family members, and she gladly helped them locate the names on the half-sized replica of the original Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., on display in Oconee County due to the efforts of the Oconee County Veterans Affairs Office and the Oconee County Veterans Council.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Jerry Dyar, Director of the Oconee County Veterans Affairs Office, holds an American flag at the Vietnam Moving Wall the afternoon of November 9, 2017, the first time the Wall was open. The flag would be hung later that afternoon inside the shelter in which the Moving Wall was displayed.
 



Jerry Dyar, Director of the Oconee County Veterans Affairs Office, held a 12-foot-by-18-foot American flag, which, later that afternoon, would be hung from above, inside Blue Ridge Electric’s shelter, for the duration of the Moving Wall’s five-day visit. “The Veterans Council is comprised of representatives from all 13 service organizations here in Oconee County,” Dyar told The Christian View magazine. “Janice started, about this time in 2014, the process of trying to get the wall to be here at this time this year, in 2017. Our goal was to get it here Veterans Day week 2017, and we made it. That’s very special to us. It’s special to have it here, period, but to have it here Veterans Day, some folks don’t realize how significant that is.”


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Janice Holbrooks, Assistant Director of the Oconee County Veterans Affairs Office, stands at the Vietnam Moving Wall on Thursday, November 9, 2017. Holbrooks began the process in 2014 to arrange for the Moving Wall to arrive in Oconee County for Veterans Day this year.




We started about three years ago, making arrangements for it to come,” said Holbrooks, “because we wanted it to be here Veterans Day. We had to get an A-tax grant. Davenport Funeral Home and Sandifer Funeral Home helped us fund it. And Blue Ridge Electric was kind enough to let us put it in the center of the county, in this wonderful location here, so that everybody can have easy access to it. And it will be here today from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We’re having an opening ceremony in the morning at 10 a.m. and a closing ceremony Sunday at 3 p.m.

Photographs by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Janice Holbrooks assists visitor Mildred Brewer with finding names from Pickens County on the wall and making rubbings of the names.



The Oconee Veterans Council and our Veterans Affairs Office, combined, brought it here, because there are a lot of folks who don’t have the opportunity to go to D.C. to see the wall. And we were hoping that, by bringing it here, they would be able to come and see it and get some closure.”



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Paul Chen has been driving The Vietnam Moving Wall to locations around the United States for the past eight years.



Paul Chen and his wife, Kim, are the drivers who take the Wall to different locations around the country, from April until November each year. He has been driving for eight years, and she has joined him for the past two years. “He’s been doing it longer,” Kim said. “He’s been able to share it longer than I have. It’s just an honor to be able to share it. We experienced someone who came to the Wall and had a heart-felt moment there. If you reach one person, and it starts their healing, it makes all the difference. That’s how I feel about it, and I love being able to share it with anybody who couldn’t make it to Washington. It’s an awesome experience. It really is. I love it.”

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my retirement,” Paul Chen told The Christian View. “I’m no ‘couch potato’, and, when I was asked if I would do it, I jumped at the chance. What a way to see America and meet thousands of people, lovely people, good people. It’s a labor of love. We do this for no pay. We volunteer and get to see the country.”


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Kim Chen has been accompanying her husband, Paul, for the past two years, driving The Vietnam Moving Wall around the country.



The Chens live in Chicago, Illinois, but the Moving Wall, he said, is based in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “I spend most of my time up in the Upper Peninsula, working on the Wall, working on the trailer, working on the truck,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s rewarding. I miss my kids and grandkids, but my kids are still like, ‘I can’t believe, Dad, you’re driving the Wall.’ And my wife and I are like only the seventh couple ever to drive it in 33 years. When we were asked, I jumped at it.”

The Wall’s visit to Westminster would be the final stop of this year.

The Wall the Chens drove to Oconee County is called the C Wall. “We have one more identical to this, in North Carolina right now,” he said. “That’s the A wall. And Aaron and Lisa Gray have that one and are doing the same thing I’m doing now. On Monday, we pack up, and Tuesday we both start going north. And we’ll probably get there almost about the same time, to put both walls away for the winter, to get away from it for a little while, and then we’ve got to start working on it to get it ready for April and then hit the road again in April.”




Photographs by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine


Another Wall, called the B wall, does not move around the country. “The B Wall was donated to a university,” he said, “where they made a permanent memorial for it. The founder, John Devitt, will not sell any piece of the Wall. He said he will give it to somebody that really wants it and has the site to display it, but he will never sell any part. He said the wall is not for sale. It belongs to the people. How do you sell something that belongs to the people? He doesn’t call it ‘his’ wall. He calls it ‘our’ wall. It belongs to all of us. He drove the wall for 20 years by himself. And now he just stays home, does contract work, pays the bills, and we let him just stay home and relax. And Aaron and I are the ones who go out in the summer now. Aaron’s been driving for 13 years
.”

Chen’s cap read ‘Moving Wall, Never Forget. Vietnam Veterans Memorial.’

“Never forget,” he said. “I never forget. It’s 44 years since I’ve been out. And I was on the tail end of Vietnam. But it feels like I’m on the frontline when I drive the wall around all over the country and bring it to Vietnam vets and their families.” Chen said that it is both humbling and rewarding to bring the names of sons and daughters to their hometown.



Photographs by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

At left: Mary McCullough watches as her husband, George, makes a rubbing of the name of Marvin G. Shields, the first U.S. Navy Seabee to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Shields' name is found above, on the seventh row
.


Mary McCullough came to see the Wall on its first day to find, for her brother, the name of Marvin Shields, who was the first and only U.S. Navy Seabee to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Shields died in Vietnam at the age of 25 in 1965, three years before McCullough's brother, a Vietnam veteran, joined the Seabees. “The base was named for him, and he says there was a ship named after him, as well,” she said. Her husband, George, a veteran who served prior to the Vietnam War, joined her to visit the Moving Wall.


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Mary McCullough, pictured with her husband, George, holds the rubbing of the name of Marvin Shields.



I didn’t expect it to be this big,” she said. “I almost started crying when I saw all of the names. I graduated from high school in 1969, and it’s like my generation, and, when they were coming back from Vietnam, they were treated so horribly.”



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Kim Blue, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, touches names upon the Vietnam Moving Wall.



Kim Blue, a Texas native who now lives in Fairplay, South Carolina, and a United States Navy Vietnam veteran who served from 1962 to 1968, also came, with his wife, Debbie, to see the Moving Wall on its first day in Westminster. The names of his cousin and several friends are on the Wall. His cousin, Kenneth, he said, was killed during a raid in Saigon. “Not regular combat,” he said. “In a hotel explosion from a truck bomb.”  Several of his friends from school also died in Vietnam. “One kid was a football player, and he told us he was going to join the Marine Corps. And my other friend, who was a football player, said, ‘He’ll never come home.’ And he didn’t. He said, ‘He doesn’t know how to duck, back down, or do anything.’ He was killed in Cambodia. And this other ‘kid’ is now a retired Marine Colonel.”

Photographs by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine


Blue said that he served as what he called a ‘bubble-head’, a nuclear submariner. As he looked at names on the Wall, he said, “What I noticed here, and what I really like, is they don’t put the rank. There’s no rank.”

All names are equal, as they all were called upon to serve their nation.

Although Blue can see some, he is legally blind, he said. “I’ll be 74 next month. I’m a cancer survivor. I’ve survived blood clots in both lungs. But I’m doing good. The good Lord’s been good to me.”

As his hand touched names on the Wall, tears began to run down his cheek.

Each name represents a young life taken too soon. Each life represents countless family members and friends who mourn their loss.


To make a donation to The Moving Wall, contact Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd., PO Box 715, White Pine, MI  49971 or call 906-885-5599. The website address is www.TheMovingWall.org.