STUART — The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a portable replica of the Washington Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, is one month closer to Martin County, and members of the Vietnam Veterans of America couldn't be more proud.
The Memorial Wall is a 300-foot-long memorial with the names of almost 58,000 U.S. troops killed in Vietnam. It will make a stop in Halpatiokee Regional Park from Oct. 25-28 after over a year of effort by Martin County's chapter #1041 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Members of the veterans group are expecting more than 30,000 people to visit the wall over the four-day period.
"I'm getting calls from all over Florida about the wall, what the schedule is," event coordinator Carol Greff said.
Ed Maxwell, first vice president of the chapter and an Army veteran, said plans are finally coming together for the four-day event, Reflections on Vietnam.
"We're getting stuff nailed down right now," Maxwell said after one of the weekly committee meetings for the memorial wall.
A processional is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 24, starting from the Port St. Lucie Civic Center, through Stuart and ending at Halpatiokee. The memorial wall will be escorted by a motorcade of motorcycles and most of the riders will be veterans.
"We're expecting between 1,000 and 1,500 motorcycles," Maxwell said.
The wall opens to the public on Oct. 25 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and the first two days will be dedicated primarily to educating students about how veterans lived during the Vietnam War, he said.
"The kids will be able to see that as well as equipment that was used during the war, vehicles and things like that," Greff said. "They'll be able to speak to veterans and ask them questions, and they'll get a little history lesson."
Entertainment from local musicians will begin on Oct. 26, scheduled at 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and through the following Sunday, according to a tentative schedule. Various local bands, Hurricane Hawk & the Invaders, Jay Blue Band and TK Blues Band to name a few, will be performing, as well as choirs and bands from local high schools.
The opening ceremony for Reflections on Vietnam is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 27, with appearances from officials from the Veterans Council and the Vietnam Veterans of America speaking.
Maxwell said organizers are working on getting the Honor Guard from the Martin County Sheriff's Office and Martin County Fire Rescue to appear at the 6 p.m. closing ceremony on Oct. 28.
Donations have ranged from handmade signs for the event to an RV for a command post to an electronic billboard to advertise.
To bring the Traveling Memorial Wall here costs about $5,400, said incoming Martin County Commissioner John Haddox, second vice president of the Martin County Vietnam Veterans of America and a Navy veteran of the Vietnam era. But the budget for the entire event is about $40,000. Various fundraisers throughout the area, the support of Martin County and the city of Stuart and donations by locals and businesses have made it possible to keep the event free despite the cost, Greff said.
The Vietnam Veterans of America chapter hopes to raise funds for its organization through beverage sales, raffles and vendors participating at the event.
"One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to aiding the veterans in Martin County," Maxwell said. "Anything from housing assistance to transportation assistance."
Haddox said regardless of the need, the funds weren't the most important part about "Reflections on Vietnam."
"That's sort of like a secondary goal," Haddox said. "The primary reason for bringing the wall here is to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam and Vietnam veterans residing here in the area."