NORTHFIELD CENTER — It’s been a long time since the war in Vietnam, but the wounds still run deep.
They’re deep enough to have driven local veterans to commit hundreds of hours to bring the traveling Vietnam Memorial to town.
One of numerous replicas of the iconic Washington, D.C. memorial, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will be in place on the grounds of Northfield Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6768 from Thursday through Sunday. In recent years, similar exhibits have been hosted in Twinsburg and Parma.
Post Commander Joseph Scherma credited Andy Klush of Rolling Thunder Chapter 1 Ohio with helping him get the initiative going.
“We talked about doing this 10 years ago, so when I became commander two years ago, he approached me again and I said, let’s do it,” Scherma said.
The two said their purpose is to remind people of the sacrifice fellow veterans made so many years ago in Southeast Asia.
“There’s 58,000 dead solders who fought for our freedom. We’ve got to understand what they sacrificed,” said Klush. “There’s also a little over 1,800 unaccounted-for veterans. We need to get their remains home for their families.”
Referring to Scherma, Klush said, “This guy here is the driving force behind this ... Joe had a hell of a vision.”
The wall is scheduled to arrive by semi on Wednesday, where it will be greeted by area veterans at the Costco in Boston Heights. From there, a police-escorted motorcade will accompany the wall north on state Route 8 to state Route 82 in Macedonia. From there, the wall and its escort will turn west into Northfield Center, then south to the post at 8584 Olde Eight Road.
Veterans who wish to participate in the procession can ride on a 50-foot trailer by meeting at the parking lot before noon when the caravan will begin.
The Traveling Wall is a three-fifths scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., standing six feet tall at the center and covering almost 300 feet from end to end. More than 58,000 names of service members who died due to the war are on the wall.
While the initial thought was to put the wall in the post parking lot, the veterans decided instead to build a proper foundation and the local Lowes donated more than $4,000 worth of plywood and other material to construct an 8-foot-wide platform carpeted with artificial turf, surrounded by mulch and lined with dozens of benches purchased by donors for $250 apiece. They were painted by Nordonia High School art students.
Committee members worked 18 months to raise funds and arrange to bring the wall to town. They include Scherma and Klush, Post Quartermaster Jim Sobek and Senior Vice Commander Clinton Ulrich, Auxiliary President Kim Esposito, Auxiliary Guard Margie Valenti, and VFW Post 6768 Riders President Greg Findura.
“We will be open 24-7, we will have security 24-7, and we will have grief counselors 24-7,” said Valenti. She said computers will be available for name locator services, so those visiting can locate the names of loved ones and relatives who are on the wall.
“I can’t tell you how so many people in this community came together to make this happen,” she added.
Volunteers will go to work assembling the wall after it arrives Wednesday.
The wall will open at noon Thursday, with an opening ceremony at 3 p.m. following a 2:30 p.m. flyover by a twin-bladed Chinook transport helicopter. An evening benediction will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Morning invocations are scheduled for 10 a.m. the remainder of the visit, with opening greetings at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, the closing ceremony will take place at noon.
Parking for the opening ceremony is available at Nordonia High School, 8006 South Bedford Road in Macedonia.
Free transportation will be provided to and from the Memorial Wall from noon to 9 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Volunteers will be available to assist anyone in need throughout the memorial’s visit.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or email@example.com.