By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
This year alone, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Memorial Wall has journeyed from Fort Myers, Fla., to Mankato, Minn., from Calais, Maine, to Carson City, Nev.
After Friday, one of the walls displayed by the Texas-based veterans’ organization will travel no more.
Early that afternoon, accompanied by more than 300 flag-bearing motorcyclists, the truck carrying the 80 percent replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., will travel into Enid from Sand Springs via U.S. 412 in advance of a 1 p.m. welcome ceremony in the newly renovated Convention Hall. The public is invited to the event and is encouraged to line Garriott to welcome the wall to town. The motorcade is expected to arrive around 12:30 or 12:45 p.m., said Elaine Johns, Woodring Wall of Honor executive director.
Only 100 seats will be set up, Johns said, so those who have difficulty standing are encouraged to arrive early.
The ceremony will include the presentation of a $500,000 check to AVTT Chief Executive Officer Don Allen, payment for the purchase of the wall, which will be placed on permanent display at Enid Woodring Regional Airport adjacent to the Woodring Wall of Honor.
“It was easy to persuade people to donate to this project because of the patriotism in this community,” said Dan Ohnesorge, co-chairman of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall Project committee. “It is quite gratifying to see it happening.”
Bringing the wall permanently to Enid has been a communitywide effort involving individuals, businesses and organizations, Ohnesorge said.
“That is exactly what our goal was from the beginning, to get as many people involved, as many organizations, as possible involved with this thing,” Ohnesorge said. “I can’t possibly recognize all of them at the ceremony on Friday because we’d be there all day. It’s been just tremendous.”
The traveling wall came to Enid for Memorial Day 2010 at the Woodring Wall of Honor. In a later conversation with Allen, Johns expressed interest in bringing the wall to Enid permanently, if one should ever be retired.
Allen contacted Johns in spring 2011 and said he was considering her offer. Allen then visited Enid that June to look over the city and the wall’s proposed new home. He was impressed and offered to sell one of the walls to the Wall of Honor group for $500,000.
“We wanted it to be one (wall) that had served,” said Johns. “This one has history. If these walls could talk ... He (Allen) liked the vision behind our park, he liked the events that would be structured around it. He liked the location.”
Johns began a fundraising campaign after Allen’s visit, but quickly realized she needed help. That help came from two veterans with strong ties to Vance Air Force Base — Ohnesorge, a retired colonel and former vice commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, and retired chief master sergeant and 71st FTW senior enlisted adviser Bob Farrell — who agreed to head up the effort.
The campaign got an early boost when an anonymous local donor offered to match half of the purchase price. Earlier this month the group announced it had reached its fundraising goal of $250,000.
The effort continues, however, with a new goal of $100,000 to install the wall and provide enhancements. To date, $40,000 has been raised toward that goal.
The wall will be stored at Woodring until installation begins within the next two months. Plans are to officially unveil it on Memorial Day. During Friday’s ceremony, the architect’s renderings of the wall’s new home will be unveiled by Wall of Honor board president David Henneke.
Until the end of February, anyone donating $1,000 or more will be recognized with their name on a monument near the wall. The cutoff date is necessary to allow time for the donors’ names to be engraved into the monument.
The Vietnam Memorial Wall Project is a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning all donations are tax-deductible.
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 wall is more than 380 feet long and 8 feet high at its tallest point, made of anodized aluminum. It contains 58,272 names of those who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. Oklahoma is the state with the second-highest number of names on the wall — 16 of them from Enid.