Tribute to Vietnam#039;s fallen: Moving Wall comes to Selma

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

"We just felt like it would be good for the community," said Jim Truax, a member of the Rotary Club. "Last year, we tried to expand the Memorial Day celebration and the veterans seemed appreciative."

The Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Washington, D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, will be displayed in Selma from Tuesday, April 5 to Sunday, April 10.

Like the memorial in Washington, The Moving Wall contains the names of the 58,245 men and women who were killed during, or remain missing from the Vietnam War.

The idea for the wall was conceived after John Devitt, a Vietnam veteran, visited the 1982 dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

He felt the need to share the experience with people who were not able to travel to Washington, so he and other Vietnam veterans built The Moving Wall.

In 1984, it went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas, and today, two structures of The Moving Wall now travel the United States from April to November.

Although the Rotary Club and the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce are the sponsoring organizations for this exhibit, many other community organizations pulled together to ensure that it will be a success.

"We tried to come up with a broad list of civic organizations to volunteer because we wanted a wide cross-section of people," said Truax. "We didn't want just one organization."

Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Alpha Civitan Club, the American Legion, the Bridge Tenders House, Chesterfield, the Civitan Club, the Exchange Club, the Fraternal Order of the Police, the Kiwanis Club, Leadership Selma, Links, the Lions Club, Master Gardeners, Marion Military Institute (MMI), the Rotary Club, the Rotaract Club, the Selma Police Department, the Sheriff's Department, Twelve High, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have all volunteered to assist in this effort.

"I think that it is a great reminder for all of us," said Kathi Needham, Chairman of the Board for the Selma-Dallas County Centre of Commerce and the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce. "This crosses every economic and cultural line in the community because we all have family members who served. It is a united effort by the civic community to make sure that people come here and leave with positive feelings for Selma and the community.

According to Truax, Needham and her husband, owners of the Bridgetender's House Bed and Breakfast, will provide free lodging for the people who accompany The Moving Wall during their stay in Selma. The Kiwanis Club will coordinate the school tours, the Master Gardeners will landscape around the exhibit once it is set up, and the MMI drill team cadets will perform the opening and closing ceremonies and also serve as tour guides. The other organizations will assist in staffing the exhibit.

"We need a minimum of 160 people just to staff it," said Truax.

The Moving Wall will be set up at the Old National Guard Armory. It is a 24 hour exhibit that will be available to the public from 8 a.m. on Tuesday, April 5, to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 10. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, and the closing ceremony at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. School tours will be on Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. Security and other staff will be at the site around the clock.

"I feel that this will be an overwhelmingly positive event," said Truax. In many places (that feature The Moving Wall) 10-15,000 people come to view it. I feel like a lot of people will come from the surrounding communities."

Among those listed on The Moving Wall are 10 men who claimed Selma as their hometown when they enrolled in the military.

"We're trying to find a picture of each of these men and do a little biography of them," said Truax. "We know who some of these men's relatives are, but some we don't know."

Truax would like for the family members of Frederick Douglass Barge, Carl Lee Brown, Brent Phillip Cleveland, Freddie Lee Johnson, James Henry Marshall, James Mooney, Bobby Riddle, Ronnie Sharpe, Townser Steele Jr., and Joseph E. Wilkinson III to contact him. He would also like information on soldiers killed in Vietnam who were native to Selma or Dallas County, but possibly listed another location as their home.

"A lot of these people grew up in Dallas County, then moved away and enlisted in the military," said Truax.

To provide more information on these soldiers, please call Truax at (334)874-4616 between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

If any person or organization is interested in volunteering for this effort, please call Needham at (334) 875-7241.