The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

August 24, 2013

Vietnam Memorial Wall’s permanent location progressing

By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Installation of the replica Vietnam Memorial Wall at Enid Woodring Regional Airport is progressing.

The concrete wall on which the anodized aluminum panels, containing more than 58,000 names of those who lost their lives during the Vietnam War, has been painted black and the first of the panels are expected to be hung soon.

“When you drive on there, it catches your attention now,” said Dan Ohnesorge, co-chairman of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall Project.

The dirt work virtually is complete, a sprinkler system soon will be installed, work on the lighting system is under way and forms for more sidewalks soon should be in place.

All of the work is leading up to the dedication of the wall, which will take place at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 — Veterans Day.

 But Ohnesorge and his co-chairman, Bob Farrell, know their work as fund-raisers is far from complete.

They are $35,000 short of their goal of raising $150,000 to erect and outfit the wall.

“I would encourage folks to drive by out there and just take a look at the magnitude of this wall,” said Farrell. “They’ll really get a concept, now that it’s black, of how big this wall’s going to be, and how much it’s going to cost to really outfit it and erect it the right way.”

The wall is 80 percent the size of the original, but still is more than 380 feet long and 8 feet high at its tallest point.

Farrell said the group has received a number of in-kind donations in terms of material and labor, but “nothing’s cheap.”

“We’re really saving a lot of money because of in-kind donations, but it is still going to take a lot of money to do it right,” Farrell said. “We know the community wants this to be a really first-class memorial.”

Anyone wishing to donate $1,000 or more still can get their name on a monument to be placed near the wall, but only until Saturday, when the list of names will have to be turned in to Pellow Monument Works Inc., just one of those in-kind donors.

The initial fundraising effort brought in $250,000 which, when matched by an anonymous donor, went to purchase the wall, which formerly was taken around the country and displayed by American Veterans Traveling Tribute, a Texas-based organization. Then, the focus shifted to raising an additional $150,000 to erect the wall adjacent to Enid’s Woodring Wall of Honor. The fundraising campaign began in January 2012.

Even after the wall is finished and dedicated, the fundraising effort will continue for maintenance and upkeep, as well as future enhancements such as an electronic kiosk to help visitors locate a name on the wall.

A planned pavilion in the center of the monument area will be built, but may not be covered until sometime next year, Farrell said. Likewise, a planned wrought-iron fence likely will have to wait until next spring.

“We want it to look really good for Veterans Day, but there are some uncertainties and we have to be careful not to exceed our budget,” said Ohnesorge. “Since we don’t know what assistance in-kind we may get in some areas, we just have to be careful. Since we haven’t reached our monetary goal, we have to be a little bit careful right now.”

Donations are trickling in, Farrell said, and any gift is appreciated, but it is getting down to crunch time.

“We really need folks who have been kind of on the fence to step over and get their contributions in as soon as you can,” he said.

Donations can be mailed to Vietnam Memorial Wall Project, c/o Security National Bank, P.O. Box 1272, Enid, OK 73702, or donations can be made in person at any SNB branch. The Vietnam Memorial Wall Project is a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning all donations are tax-deductible.

Ohnesorge, a retired Air Force colonel and former vice wing commander at Vance Air Force Base, said anyone wishing to make a donation also could call him at (580) 747-9009.

“I’m happy to come by and get it, or they can meet me anywhere,” he said.

The wall, once it is completed and dedicated, will serve a three-fold purpose, said Farrell, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant — to honor, to heal and to educate.

Donations have come in to honor those on the wall, or just Vietnam veterans in general, Farrell said.

He said he has heard from “Vietnam veterans who are really looking forward to this wall, because it is a place where they and their families can go and do a little healing for what happened to them during the war, but what happened after the war and the way they were treated. This is a way for the community to give back to that particular generation that stepped up to the plate, but were involved in a war that was not popular in any stretch of the imagination.”

The wall also will serve as a point of education for today’s children, who were born long after the Vietnam era, but need to know what happened during that tumultuous time in the nation’s history.

“We intend it to be a really nice memorial, probably the nicest one outside of Washington, D.C.,” said Farrell. “But we can’t just do it ourselves. We need help.”