The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 23, 2013

Wall’s permanent display taking longer than expected

By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The effort to put a retired traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall on permanent display at Enid Woodring Regional Airport is taking longer than expected.

The original goal was to hold a dedication ceremony for the wall on Memorial Day, but that will not happen, organizers of the fundraising effort to bring the wall here said earlier this week.

“That was obviously our goal,” said Dan Ohnesorge, co-chairman of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall Project. “But it became a little more complicated when we started looking at the set-up, the bed-down. The scope of what it’s going to look like expanded a little bit.”

The plan now is to dedicate the wall on Veterans Day, which will allow time to properly complete the project.

“We thought it was best to do it right,” said Ohnesorge, a retired Air Force colonel and former vice wing commander at Vance Air Force Base. “Let’s have a first-class setting.”

Ground was broken for the project March 14, adjacent to the Woodring Wall of Honor.

“Because it’s not going to be totally set up to our liking, we didn’t want to detract from the Wall of Honor Memorial Day service,” said Bob Farrell, co-chair of the wall project and a retired Air Force chief master sergeant.

The groundbreaking was delayed because of concerns about proper placement of the wall among a series of buried utility lines, as well as design changes and enhancements.

“Instead of having just a concrete pad with a concrete wall to support it, and a berm, this is now an elevated memorial with ADA-compliant (Americans With Disabilities Act) ramps, sidewalks, steps up to it, lighting, both indirect and direct lighting on the wall, pavilions for folks to sit under in the shade,” said Farrell. “There are other things that may develop, depending on how much money we can raise.”

The original fundraising effort to gather $250,000, half the purchase price of the wall (the other half was provided by an anonymous donor) culminated Nov. 30 when the wall was welcomed “home” to Enid at a ceremony at Convention Hall. That day, a check for $500,000 was presented to the wall’s previous owner, American Veterans Traveling Tribute chief executive officer Don Allen, officially making the wall the property of the Woodring Wall of Honor.

Now, money is being raised to give the wall a dignified, user-friendly setting. The group has $72,000 in hand, but hopes to raise $100,000 in all.

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.

The group had set a deadline of the end of February for those who wanted to donate $1,000 or more and have their names put on a monument to be displayed near the wall. That deadline has been extended to August.

Donations in kind, of labor and materials, also are being accepted, Farrell said. Those interested in donating labor or materials to the project are asked to call Elaine Johns, Woodring Wall of Honor executive director, at the Wall of Honor office, 233-4530.

D.C. Bass & Sons Construction is overseeing the wall’s installation.

“We own the wall,” Farrell said. “That was the biggest expense. But we want to make sure it is done right.”

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, made of anodized aluminum. It contains the names of 58,272 people who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.

When it is completed, Ohnesorge said, Enid’s display of the wall will rival any Vietnam memorial in the nation outside the original on the Capitol Mall.

“This will probably be the best Vietnam memorial outside of Washington, D.C.,” said Ohnesorge.

“It will only be second to the Washington memorial,” said Farrell.

The wall will draw people to Enid, Farrell said, as well as letting people know just what a patriotic community Enid is.

“The people of Enid are going to be very proud to have it here,” he said.