By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The dream of placing a formerly traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall on permanent display in Enid took a step closer to becoming reality Thursday.
Ground was broken Thursday afternoon for the site on which the 80 percent scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., will be displayed, adjacent to the Woodring Wall of Honor on the grounds of Enid Woodring Regional Airport.
Enid Mayor Bill Shewey and David Henneke, president of the Woodring Wall of Honor board, were among those on hand for the brief ceremony, which was highlighted by a performance by the Enid High School Honor Choir and the posting of the colors by the Silver Talon Honor Guard from Vance Air Force Base.
“It was appropriate to mark the beginning of the bed-down process,” said Dan Ohnesorge, co-chair of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall Project fundraising effort. “Now we can start construction.”
“Seeing our local Vietnam veterans in attendance saluting the flags, hearing the beautiful music shared by the Enid High School Honor Choir and knowing when the frustrations of construction begins, we can look back and be motivated by the moving ceremony that took place today,” said Elaine Johns, executive director of Woodring Wall of Honor.
“This is a historical moment for all of us,” Henneke said. “We remember the bravery and the heroism involved, and we will never forget the sacrifices that were made in that conflict. This is also a very poignant moment for our Wall of Honor board, community and volunteers, many who are Vietnam-era veterans.”
The wall was welcomed to Enid in a ceremony in early December, at which time a check for the purchase price, $500,000, was handed over to the wall’s former owner, Don Allen, chief executive officer of Texas-based American Veterans Traveling Tribute.
Plans were to have the wall in place and ready for dedication by Memorial Day, but some of the realities of construction have delayed that. Now the goal is to dedicate the wall on Veterans Day next November.
“As we got into the architectural renderings, we saw things we wanted to fix, to make better,” said Ohnesorge, a retired Air Force colonel and former vice commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance. “When we tried to site it, there are a lot of utilities out there, so we had to position it just right. All of that process took a little longer than we thought it would.
“We didn’t want to rush it to get it ready for Memorial Day. We thought we wouldn’t do as good a job as we would if we took a little more time and made sure to get it right.”
Fundraising efforts for the project continue, Ohnesorge said. About $75,000 has been raised thus far to fund the installation of the wall, with a goal of $100,000.
“A lot of folks have pledged labor and goods in kind, but we still have a lot of things we have to buy,” Ohnesorge said.
The group had set a deadline of the end of February for those who wanted to donate $1,000 and have their names put on a monument to be displayed near the wall. That deadline has been extended to August.
“We would be happy to have folks donate,” said Ohnesorge.
Anyone interested in donating labor or materials to the project is asked to call Johns at the Wall of Honor office, 233-4530.
Monetary donations should be sent 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 SNB. The Vietnam Memorial Wall Project is a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning all donations are tax-deductible.
The Traveling Vietnam Memorial 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, made of anodized aluminum. It contains the names of 58,272 people who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.