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Mountain Home Magazine

The Moving Wall Stops Here

Jul 01, 2024 09:00AM ● By Gayle Morrow

Could you do it? Could you contend with the memories and emotions that erupt when you stand in front of a monument that lists over 58,000 names of soldiers, men and women, dead or missing, some with whom you served in a war that was, to say the least, unpopular on the home front?

Not every veteran can, but many in the area will soon have the opportunity to try. The Moving Wall—the half-size replica of architect Maya Lin’s massive black granite monument to the men and women who died or remain missing as the result of their military service in the Vietnam War—comes to Tioga County, Pennsylvania. It will be at Williamson High School from July 10 through 15.

According to the most recent census, there are about 4,800 veterans in Tioga County. Of that number, says Tim Cleveland, Tioga County’s director of Veteran’s Affairs, there are probably 1,500 to 1,800 Vietnam veterans.

“They are our biggest client base here,” he says. Their numbers are rapidly decreasing, though, in part because of age—they’re typically between seventy-three and eighty-four—and in part because of their exposure to herbicide defoliants such as Agent Orange during their combat tenure.

“I’m extremely happy that the [Vietnam Veterans Memorial] wall in DC was completed in the time it was [1982] so they have that remembrance,” Tim says, adding many experience a “gamut of feelings” when they do see it, while others, for a variety of reasons, have never made the trek to Washington.

Ditto for The Moving Wall. It will be, Tim says, “an opportunity to come together as a community and a county to honor their service.”

The Moving Wall is six feet high at the center, tapering to four feet at each end, and is 152.4 feet long. It’s made of aluminum, comes in pieces, and is hauled on trailers, typically with a police, motorcycle, or other type of escort. There will be an opening ceremony beginning at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10, that will include a reading of all names on the wall. If a veteran needs a ride to the opening ceremony, contact BeST Transit to schedule one at (570) 659-5330. On each of the following days, a reveille will be played at 6:20 a.m. and taps will be played at 9 p.m. There will be a closing service at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 15.

For the veterans, it can be a time of closure and healing—and for family members, too, he continues. There will be grief counselors available. Himself an Army Reservist who was deployed to the Middle East five times, Tim says it will be a very solemn event.

“It’s not a celebration. It’s a time of facing doors in your mind. There’s gonna be a lot of tears there, and a lot of reunions.”

Al Jay, who spends part of the year at his camp in Tioga County, is a Marine Corps combat veteran. He served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. “I haven’t been able to go yet,” he says of visiting the memorial wall in Washington.

“I’ve tried—I just couldn’t do it.” He won’t be in the area during the time the Moving Wall will be here, but isn’t sure he’d be able to see it, anyway.

“Maybe…if I could get myself to do it,” he says.

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