Traveling Vietnam Veterans Living Wall headed to the Valley

Friday April 19, 2013

WILMINGTON -- Town Clerk Susie Haughwout and Wendy Pratt had been trying to get the traveling Vietnam Veterans Living Wall replica into the Deerfield Valley for a year and half before they were notified of its coming to Mount Snow's Howe Farm Field on Route 100.

"We'll be working really hard to bring this wonderful honor to the Vietnam veterans and to the town," said Haughwout. "And hopefully, we'll have a really successful event."

The memorial display will be open to the public from June 13 to 17.

"The Moving Wall" is half the size of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and it has been touring around the United States for more than 20 years.

Haughwout had wanted the memorial wall to be placed on the baseball field at the Twin Valley High School, but since the site was seeded in November, the school board didn't think it would be ready for a large amount of people to walk on by June.

Haughwout called Mount Snow General Manager Kelly Pawlak to see if they could use the Howe Farm Field. This would make the display more of a two-town event, since the site is right between Dover and Wilmington.

"She just said immediately, ‘No problem,'" Haughwout told the Reformer.

Pratt and Haughwout have been coordinating the Memorial Day event in Wilmington for more than a dozen years. A different theme is chosen each year and a presentation is made at Memorial Hall.

"Last year, we knew were going to make the theme Vietnam and have the program center around welcoming home our Vietnam veterans," said Haughwout. "Wendy (Pratt) and I grew up in the Vietnam era and we feel a lot of veterans never got a proper welcome home."

The year before that program, Haughwout had filled out an application to bring the "Moving Wall" to Wilmington but hadn't heard anything.

"I didn't think it made the cut," she said. "In late February or early March, I got a call from the Vietnam Veterans Combat Organization ... They said, ‘You're on the list ... It's coming in June.'"

The organization is the group that created the Living Wall. It is also responsible for taking the display around the country.

Even though, the theme for this year's Memorial Day celebrations in Wilmington won't be Vietnam, it will be the 50th anniversary of the war.

Haughwout went to the local American Legion Nelson E. Pickwell Post #15 and asked if its members were interested in having it in town. There would be costs and responsibilities that come with hosting the display. The American Legion Post #15 agreed to sponsor it.

"They were thrilled," said Haughwout. "They really wanted it to come."

Haughwout then went to the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"The Chamber was very excited," she said. "We went on meetings with business owners from Dover and Wilmington. And they were excited because in the event that we have visitors come to the area, they want to offer lodging and hospitality. They jumped on the bandwagon right away."

Since there is construction to be done for setting up the Living Wall replica, Haughwout spoke with Habitat For Humanity, an organization that donates construction materials and labor to those who need assistance. The foundation for the Living Wall must be put in place. Each wall is 122 feet long.

"They want to help," said Haughwout.

She gave local construction worker Fred Skwirt a handbook that explains how to prepare for its arrival. He showed interest and will be the leader of construction.

Living History Association members Jim Dassitti and Joe Kruszewski came forward, too. They gave Haughwout a proposal of what they'd like to contribute, which included a tent and on-site security.

She also spoke with Moover transportation representatives about the event.

"It's not typically a place where people get on and off the bus," said Haughwout. "They are preparing to make accommodations for visitors."

There's a fee to bring the "Moving Wall" to town as well as other costs, which include the advertising and signage. So, Haughwout has been fundraising.

"I've done pretty well," she said. "I still got my hand out and I still got some people and organizations to talk to."

Haughwout is accepting donations that will go towards basics, such as construction materials, lighting and security.

Donations can be sent into the Wilmington Town Office, P.O. Box 217, Wilmington, VT 05363, Attention: Town Clerk. Checks can be written out to the American Legion Nelson E. Pickwell Post #15.

Haughwout is asking for more volunteers to guard the site as well. The site will need 24-hour surveillance.

Setting up the actual display will take some time and manpower.

"When the walls comes on June 12 to be assembled, we are required to have 10 able bodied people to help the driver and his assistant," said Haughwout. "It takes three to four hours to set up. On June 17, they will need 10 people to dissemble. That takes an hour and half to two hours."

Haughwout also plans to notify the congressional delegation, Gov. Shumlin and local VFWs.

Any groups who want to make a ceremony during the five day display are encouraged to contact Haughwout. She said there is plenty of time to accommodate any group that would like to do so.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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