By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Memorial Day weekend is the time Americans pause to honor those who have paid the ultimate price in our nation’s wars.
It seems fitting then, that a monument to those lost in combat in Vietnam will be the subject of a fundraiser this weekend.
From 8 a.m. until at least 2 p.m. Saturday, representatives of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall Project will be accepting donations in front of Jumbo Foods West, 2311 W. Willow. KOFM 103.1 FM will broadcast from the site of the fundraiser 10 a.m. to noon.
“We’re getting so close and we need to get the materials and this thing going, to make sure it is finished in time for our dedication on Veterans Day,” said Bob Farrell, co-chair of the fundraising effort. “Now’s the time we need people to donate.”
Thus far the group has raised $80,000 of the $150,000 it needs to pay for putting up the wall at Enid Woodring Regional Airport, and creating the park-like atmosphere in which it will be displayed.
“We’ve got enough to raise the wall, but we don’t have enough money to finish it off like we would like to have it for the community,” said Farrell. “We’d like to get that money to be able to do all the things to the wall that need to be done.”
Among the enhancements planned for the wall are lighting, Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks and benches.
“In order to set it up in a classy setting that we envision, we need to continue the fundraising,” said Dan Ohnesorge, co-chairman of the fundraising project.
No donation is too small, the men emphasized. It also is not too late for the name of any group or individual wishing to donate $1,000 or more to be included on a monument to be built adjacent to the wall.
“We don’t care what it is, we’ll take all donations,” Farrell said. “They put a little something in and that’s great, they’re a part owner in it. If you’re a stockholder, nobody cares except the CEO how many shares you own. If you’re a stockholder, you’re a stockholder, you’re invited to the stockholder’s meeting. Our stockholder’s meeting is going to be Veterans Day.”
“If someone has been holding off, here’s a perfect opportunity,” Ohnesorge said. “We want people to feel ownership of this wall.”
Ground was broken for the wall March 14, but actual construction didn’t begin until earlier this month. The footing and some of the retaining panels already are in place, said Farrell.
Farrell and Ohnesorge said they realized the timing of the fundraiser might not be ideal, coming in the wake of the devastating tornado that hit Moore Monday.
“We know it’s a tough time,” said Farrell, “Everyone’s attention is on Moore and the surrounding communities that got hit by the tornadoes. But we’ve talked to several people in the community and they said, ‘No, you’ve got to go forward, life goes on and this is such a big project for Enid.’”
The Vietnam Memorial Wall Project is a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning all donations are tax-deductible.
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. Cash, check or credit card donations are accepted.
Enid’s 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. But with the concrete footing beneath it, Farrell said, the wall will reach some 11 feet at its highest point.
Enid’s replica wall currently contains the names of 58,272 people who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. Since the replica wall was engraved, however, 14 more names have been added to the original Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., bringing the total to 58,286. Those names, including that of Enid Marine Lester James Veazey, who was added to the wall earlier this month, will be added to the Enid wall, as well. Veazey brings the total of Enid residents’ names listed on the wall to 17.
“Those names will be added and they will be up by Veterans Day,” Ohnesorge said.
As names are added to the original wall, they will be added to Enid’s replica wall, as well, Ohnesorge said.
“They will be added to the particular panel that represents the time frame in which they were killed,” said Ohnesorge.