The Moving Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial arrives in Newport’s Touro Park this Thursday morning, September 19th at 9:00am.
The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was devised by John Devitt after he attended the 1982 annual commemoration ceremonies celebrated in Washington for Vietnam veterans. He felt that he needed to share his experience with those who did not have the opportunity to go to Washington. Devitt, Norris Shears, Gerry Haver, and other Vietnam veterans volunteered to build the Wall. It went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas, in October 1984.
Two structures of The Moving Wall now travel the United States from April through November, spending 5 or 6 days at each site. Veterans’ organizations contact his company, Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd., to arrange local visits. By 2006, the structure has made more than 1000 visits. On its visits, the Moving Wall is often escorted by state troopers or volunteer organizations such as the Patriot Guard Riders, who accompany the memorial on motorcycles.
Bringing The Moving Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial to Newport in 2019 is a community effort to honor the many veterans in Newport and throughout all of Aquidneck Island and Rhode Island. The Moving Wall has been brought here for every single Vietnam vet, especially those whose stories have gone untold and unnamed for too long. The hope is that the presence of The Moving Wall can bring healing, with the acknowledgement that it can never replace sacrifices made or loss of life. Bringing The Moving Wall here is a way for this community to say thank you to all Vietnam veterans—for enduring pandemonium, horror, and adversity, and recognizing moments of beauty, kinship, and harmony they may have experienced.
There is an interesting design note that ties the Washington, D.C. monument to Newport’s historic harbor area. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was designed in 1981 by Maya Lin, who was an undergraduate student at Yale University and just 21 years old at the time. Her iconic monument broke with convention, dramatically changing the course of memorial design and typology. Lin, who went on to become an architect, designed “The Meeting Room” in 2013, a permanent installation in Newport’s Queen Anne Square, consisting of stone foundations, a water table, and carved quotations that represent the historic uses of the public park. Queen Anne’s Square is located just one-third of a mile from Touro Park, an easy walk down Pelham Street toward Newport Harbor.
Schedule of Events
- Thursday, September 19 at 9 a.m. Processional Order of March. An escort of the Moving Wall from Middletown into Newport, led by local police departments and veterans motorcycle groups. Upon arrival, we will have a blessing ceremony, followed by the assembly of the Wall onto its foundation for the next four days. Thursday’s events will conclude with a Candlelight Vigil at 7:30 p.m. with music, the Old Glory Flag Ceremony, a KIA remembrance with the reading of names of the RI Veterans killed in Vietnam.
- Friday, September 20, Opening Ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. and include music, a Proclamation by the City of Newport, and speakers sharing their perspective and experience as Vietnam Veterans, including Former RI Chief Justice Frank J. Williams and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, speaking about his experience living in Vietnam.
- Saturday, September 21, 12:00 noon, a lecture about the Army Corps of Engineers. Beginning at 1:00pm, the US Vietnam War Commemoration Recognition Ceremony, including a Proclamation by the Town of Middletown, the Soldiers Cross ceremony, and reflections on their service by Peggy Zarek, Dan Thurston and Daniel Evangelista.
- Sunday, September 22, 1:00pm, the US Vietnam War Commemoration Recognition Ceremony, including a Proclamation by the Town of Portsmouth, and reflections on their service by Frank Grzyb, Ken Garthee and John Ciummo.
- Monday, September 23, 9:00 a.m. The Moving Wall Closing Ceremony will be led by music from the Navy Band Northeast, and a reading from Rudy Borgueta and other veterans. The ceremony will conclude with a benediction, and then volunteers will help return the Wall to its truck before departure.
Participants and times subject to change. All events will take place in Touro Park unless weather dictates otherwise. Alternate locations are provided by Newport Elks Lodge and Channing Memorial Church.