Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, exhibits honor fallen heroes

By April Jaynes

June 24, 2014

GALLIPOLIS — This year’s Fourth of July weekend events in Gallia County will honor more than the nation’s independence.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will make its way to the Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande, where both national and local heroes and will be honored through various exhibits.

The 24-hour display, “Honor our Heroes,” is hosted by the Gallia County Chapter 709 of the Vietnam Veterans and Bob Evans Farms, and is free and open to the public on July 3-6. The display will feature a memorial for 12 local Vietnam War veterans and a photo exhibit of more than 800 images titled “Through the Eyes,” in addition to the traveling memorial wall.

Larry Marr, president of the Gallia County Chapter 709, said this is the largest project the 10-member committee has ever taken on and that they feel it is their responsibility to keep the memory of the veterans alive.

“There are a number of Vietnam War veterans that are still broken up,” Marr said.” They want the peace and the privacy to come in and view the wall when no one else is around.”

Marr and his wife conducted research and found the names, death announcements and stories of 12 Gallia County fallen heroes of the Vietnam War: Russell Hamilton ( 4 May 1996), John O. Finnicum (3 June 1966), Charles Neal (25 April 1967), Wandell Hickman (7 July 1967), Russell Blanton (15 July 1967), Archie Hayman (2 April 1968), Paul Yost (2 May 1968), Cecil Matthew Jr. (19 July 1968), Leslie Brucker (25 August 1968), Roger Hawley (28 March 1969), Fred Mooney (27 February 1971, MIA) and Albert Lee (2 February 1972, MIA.)

“People go (to see the wall), especially veterans, out of a feeling of responsibility that they will find comrade’s names on the wall that fought right beside of them and they feel like they have to go there to get some closure. You’ll have feelings of sadness, loss, despair and anger,” Marr said.

The traveling wall is a 3/5-scale replica of the original memorial in Washington, D.C. It is six feet tall at the center and stretches 300 feet from end to end, showcasing 72 panels on each wing. The memorial has traveled to 46 states so far and visited more than 300 cities.

Marr said Bob Evans Farm manager Ray McKinniss initially talked to the chapter members in December about bringing the traveling wall to the farm.

“I just knew that it’s something I wanted to do,” he said.

McKinniss said the photo exhibit titled “Through the Eyes,” will feature more than 800 photographs taken by John Hosier, a Vietnam War veteran and four-time Purple Heart recipient.

“We are just glad to be able to bring these two pieces of memorabilia to Gallia County,” McKinniss said.

The opening ceremony to the memorial will take place at 6 p.m. July 3, with guest speaker Timothy Gorrell, director of the Ohio Veterans Service. On Sunday morning, local pastor and veteran John Jackson will conduct a service at 9:30 a.m., and the closing ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. with guest speaker U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson.

The wall will travel to Bob Evans Farm from Butler Landing on July 1, where Marr said hundreds of motorcyclists are meeting at 1 p.m. to join law enforcement agencies in escorting the memorial to the farm. The procession will travel on Second Avenue in Gallipolis and through the village of Rio Grande before arriving at the farm.

“It will be a Gallia County Rolling Thunder,” Marr said.