RANDOLPH TWP. – Taking a victory lap – and thanking many for making it happen- Randolph VFW Post 733 mostly wanted to just express sincere gratitude.
“The Moving Wall Tribute Lunch” was held at the Randolph Diner at noon on Saturday, July 16.
After everyone arrived, Bill Menzel, vice commander of Randolph VFW 7333, gave a quick speech thanking everyone who helped bring ”The Moving Wall” to Morris County.
“The Moving Wall,” a miniature but exact replica of The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., visited the campus of County College of Morris from Thursday, July 7 to Monday, July 11. Morris County estimated that 5,000 visited the wall, which is inscribed with the names of 58,000 who perished during the Vietnam War from November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975.
The VFW, however, puts the number of visitors at closer to 6,000.
“Thanks to the over 6,000 visitors and to the 138 volunteers that helped bring “The Moving Wall” to Randolph. The event was the highlight of the Randolph Township Vietnam Veterans Tribute Days during July 7 to 11,” the VFW states on its website dedicated to the wall’s visit.
The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Washington, D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial that has been touring the country for more than 30 years.
“The goal is to honor our dead and to help heal the wounds of this divisive conflict,” the post states.
“We had wonderful support from (CCM President) Dr. Anthony Iacono and the team at County College of Morris, our host venue. State Sen. Anthony Bucco, State Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, County Commissioner John Krickus, Randolph Mayor Marie Potter and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill made moving speeches and 32 organizations participated in our wreath laying ceremony,” the post says.
“We also want to recognize the outstanding contribution made by Home Depot and its employees and the many organizations, sponsors and donors,” the post states.
The Dover Home Depot provided staff, tools, and materials to build the wooden walkway which led to the 250-foot log wall and proceeded from end to end.
After lunch, Bill Fosina, president of the Shooting Star Air Force Chapter 195 of Bernardsville, spoke about the aviation art of Keith Ferris whose work is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Air Force & Space Museum. Fosina said Ferris he has been cited as the “Dean of American Aviation Art”. He has also published many books including “The Aviation Art of Keith Ferris”.
The book was presented to Iacono along with a certificate of Appreciation. Iacono said he was honored to receive it for the school.
There were about 22 Certificates of Appreciation handed out by Menzel for their assistance in bringing “The Moving Wall” to Randolph. Recipients included: the American Red Cross, Warriors Watch Riders, Home Depot, CCM, Kiwanis Club of Randolph, Red Cross, Randolph Diner, Provident Bank, Rotary Club of Randolph, Secaucus Vets Center, just to name a few of them.
Menzel also spoke at the “closing ceremonies” held on Monday, July 11.
“We have been very blessed to have CCM host us, and they have done a truly wonderful job,” he said.
“This is an important moment for us,” Menzel said.
“This is a moment of reverence. When you look at this wall, I want you to think about that. This is hallowed ground, for a few more minutes, until we take the wall down and it goes somewhere else,” he said.
“And, I want you to think about those souls, including Jack Sassaman, our past commander, who passed away recently and was a Vietnam veteran,” Menzel said.
He also thanked VFW member Emerson Crooks, who was a key player in bringing the wall to Randolph.
“We have to have an understanding that we are not to be pitied. We fought a war bravely and with honor. Vietnam veterans are not to be pitied,” Menzel said.
“We won the ground war, and the diplomats pissed it away. But we won militarily,” he said.
“These men and women were heroes,” he said, pointing to the wall behind him, and to a round of applause.
“They accomplished their mission.”
“Congress did not comply with the treaty that had been signed to support the South Vietnamese,” Menzel said, his voice rife with emotion.
“They got invaded. They got hit hard. And within two years, they were wiped out. And that’s when we had those images of helicopters leaving, and flying away,” he said.
“It is an injustice. An injustice to their memory to think that we lost that war,” he said.
“We did not, and I want you to understand that always,” he said, pointing his finger to mark the point.
“So here we are to say God bless you,” he said, looking directly at the wall behind him. “We love you. We will never forget you.”
Iacono also spoke.
“It has truly been our honor. And by comparison of what you did for our nation and for this world, it is a very tiny gesture by comparison, and the gratitude is truly ours,” he told gathered VFW members.
He said the wall was coming down, and was on its way to Iowa, but he said the impact of its visit, and the memories, will live on for many years.
“The memories of this day, and the impact of these days, will live on for many, many, many years,” he said.
He also said plans are underway to expand veteran’s services at the college, and said he looks forward to meeting with VFW members again in the future.
“It has been a powerful, powerful experience being out here at this wall, with a lot of people coming out daily,” he said.
He said he came early morning, afternoon and evening, and said there were always people there, visiting the wall, and paying their tributes to those lost.
He said the effort, which took more than a year to organize, really brought the community together.
“We had so much support,” Menzel said. “It’s just a wonderful thing.”
The Rev. Timothy Clarkson, of the Union Hill Presbyterian Church, also spoke at the closing ceremony.
He said he was 19 when he visited the memorial in Washington D.C. Just like 8,283 of those names on the wall.
“Think about that. If you are yet to reach the age of 19. If you see age 19 somewhere in your rear view mirror, pause and think about that. Read those names on the wall to see the stories and the lives of those who we remember this morning,” he said.
“Think about what it means,” Senior Vice Commander Emerson Crooks said.
“I say this all the time. It’s just not inscribed names on a wall. It’s a monument for memorial purposes so we remember the sacrifices. When you look at all these names, and you think about 18, 19 and 16 years old kids. Kids who never had the chance to have a life, who never had the chance to have grandchildren. And when you think about the impact on our society, all those lives are lost. Those are kids who could have had children and grandchildren. The freedom we enjoy? That’s the price of it right there,” he said.