BRATTLEBORO — The Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall, a roughly half-size replica of the one in D.C. with more than 58,300 names of soldiers who didn't come home from serving in the Vietnam War, is coming here from Sept. 16 to 20 after a successful fundraising campaign and a lot of planning.
“We’ve come a long way,” Len Derby, a member of the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 843 in Brattleboro who led efforts to bring the wall to town, said at the Brattleboro Rotary Club meeting held remotely Thursday. “We’re in the final stages now of setting up the wall.”
His goal of raising $15,000 for the project was reached and donations are still coming in.
Derby, who was part of a U.S. Army aviation brigade in Vietnam, served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 then became an instructor teaching aircraft maintenance in the military. Starting in 1970, he worked for various companies in the local area.
It became his goal in recent years to apply to have the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall in Brattleboro for the first time, having been impressed with it after visiting it in several locations.
“It never gets old,” he said. “I’ve seen the wall in Washington, D.C., twice. It’s a very moving experience for anyone.”
Derby said a lot of veterans in the area have not had the opportunity to see the wall in D.C.
“There’s an awful lot of work that goes into preparing this,” he said. “Since I worked at Fulflex several years ago and I am familiar with the Moore people, I have permission to use their field in front of the Fulflex plant off Putney Road, which is an ideal location for this event because it’s nearly flat and easily accessible to handicapped people as well as anyone.”
The Moore Company formerly owned Fulflex in Brattleboro.
Derby said the wall is made up of 74 panels constructed of heavy aluminum with silk screened names that protrude, making it easy to do rubbings.
A carpenter volunteered to build a platform to hold the wall and Home Depot donated the needed materials. A walkway will be created with wood chips supplied by Cersosimo Lumber Company in Brattleboro and spread by Rotary Club members.
Recently, Derby contacted the field owners about what he described as “a goose problem.”
“Anyone who has ideas on how to scare away geese certainly are welcome to do that,” he said. “My last visit to the area I found goose droppings everywhere and it’s a little disappointing because they’re digging little holes in the surface as well, which I conveyed to The Moore Company. They have an engineer working on that.”
Derby said ideas for solving the issue include scaring the geese away, using environmentally friendly dust that repels geese but doesn’t hurt them, or cutting the grass short. He reached out to game wardens for advice.
Several events are being planned for the week the wall is in Brattleboro and artifacts will be on display. A schedule will be announced soon.
Former and retired police officers have offered to be members of a security team. Medical staff, anticipated to include local nurses and at least one retired doctor who also is a military veteran, will be on site.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to utilize rescue to come take anyone away but it’s a possibility,” Derby said, “because seeing the wall for the first time for some people can be very, very emotional and I have seen people carried away at past locations.”
Visitors will be asked to silence their cell phones and not bring pets or food.
Volunteers are still being sought. They will assist visitors with rubbings, carrying panels, setting up tents and other tasks.
Derby said the Rotary Club is doing “a fantastic job” getting food for volunteers.
His hope is to open the wall by about 1 p.m. Sept. 16 and start disassembling it by 4 p.m. Sept. 20.
“We’re hoping everyone comes to see the wall,” he said. “This is something we’re looking forward to.”