Vietnam vet observing people visit the Memorial Wall. -Photo by Justin Sweitzer
by JUSTIN SWEITZER
Hundreds made their way to Palmerton Borough Park on Thursday, July 21 for the opening ceremonies welcoming the Moving Wall, a structure dedicated to Vietnam veterans lost in the war, to the town.
The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. which features the names of 58,300 veterans who were lost in the war. The Moving Wall tours the country from April through November, giving many across the country a chance to remember the service of fallen veterans without having to make the trip to Washington, D.C.
Stephen Vlossak, the leading force behind bringing the wall to Palmerton, “welcomed home” the many Vietnam veterans in attendance, giving them a chance to receive the recognition that was not often shown during the war.
Vlossak, a local attorney and community leader, was the featured speaker of the opening night and delivered an address that recognized the sacrifices, the struggles and the perseverance of the veterans of the Vietnam War.
“This is a time to reflect and respect with dignity,” Vlossak said. “To those Vietnam vets here, I say welcome home brothers.”
Vlossak touched on the everlasting effects of the war, from the irreplaceable bonds and friendships made, to the terrors that still live on in the minds of many veterans.
“We have come home, but the experiences of the war always live on in us,” Vlossak stated.
The opening night also featured remarks from Palmerton Mayor Chris Olivia, who delivered an emotional speech remembering his own time in Vietnam. State Representative Doyle Heffley additionally spoke, calling the wall “a learning experience for younger generations,” referencing the Palmerton High School football team who helped to set up the wall early that morning.
Other speakers included County Commissioners Wayne E. Nothstein and Thomas J. Gerhard and Carbon County Veterans Affairs Director Henry Desrosiers.
In addition to the opening ceremonies held on July 21, Friday, July 22 recognized and remembered the veterans of the Vietnam war with ties to Carbon County. Wreath laying and candlelight ceremonies were held on Saturday, July 23, and the ceremonies came to an end on Sunday, July 24.
No theme was more evident than that of sacrifice during the five-day period in which the Moving Wall visited Palmerton. Mayor Olivia stated that while all give some and some give all, the Moving Wall is dedicated to those who gave all in the name of their country.
Steve Vlossak echoed the same sentiment in his speech. “The ones we honor on the Moving Wall, they gave their lives, and it has been written there is no greater gift, no greater love, than to give your life for another.”
What followed is the ultimate message that Vietnam veterans wish to get across about their service. Despite the various political viewpoints and negative opinions surrounding the Vietnam War at the time, Vlossak urged all in attendance to remember, “They gave this ultimate sacrifice for you and me.”