By Kristin Rover
Thousands of people walked the length of the Vietnam Traveling Wall, a replica of the wall located in Washington D.C., and view the names inscribed into the panels Oct. 10-13 in Union Township.
The wall was part of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, which includes the traveling wall and the Cost of Freedom Tribute displays.
“It’s just an experience when you see all the names,” Joe Hill, an Anderson Township resident, said about the tribute.
Hill said his brother was killed in the Vietnam War. He said he has been to the wall in Washington D.C., but is glad they were able to bring the traveling tribute to the Cincinnati area.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” Hill said about the memorial. “It gives a chance for people who can’t travel to see it.”
The tribute was escorted into the township by more than 300 motorcycle riders Oct. 9. An opening ceremony was held Oct. 10 to welcome residents to view the tribute at Veterans’ Memorial Park in Union Township.
“I want to welcome back the Vietnam Veterans’ Traveling Tribute,” Union Township Trustee Tim Donnellon said during the opening ceremony. “We are glad to have it back.”
Donnellon said the wall was first brought to the township in 2003. He said they estimated more than 20,000 residents viewed the wall while it was at the park that year.
Donnellon said when talking to veterans of all wars, it is amazing how their stories are similar, but Vietnam veterans remain different from others.
“The difference is how we, as Americans, responded when they came home,” Donnellon said.
Donnellon said the difference is obvious when you watch a veteran come home today.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that then,” Donnellon said. “So, let’s do that now. Welcome, and welcome home.”
The West Clermont By Request Choir performed during the opening ceremony.
Several guests spoke while the tribute was in the county including Glenn Welling, vice president of operations for the USO, Joseph Johnston, national commander of Disabled American Veterans, and more.
Robert W. Gumbert Sr., the father of soldier Robert Gumbert Jr., who was listed as missing in action in Vietnam, placed the wreath in front of the memorial to honor POW and MIA servicemen during the opening ceremony.
Gumbert, who has been to the wall in Washington D.C., said the traveling tribute is beautiful.
“This looks nearly perfect, only smaller,” Gumbert said.
He said being a part of the ceremony means a lot.
“It means more than you can imagine,” Gumbert said.
Thousands of area residents came out to see the tribute while it was in the county, according to Andrea Bryant with Clermont County Veterans’ Service Commission.
“I think this is great,” Ben Joehnk, of Union Township, said about the traveling tribute. “I don’t think people realize how many gave their lives for this country.”
Chris Stultz, who serves in the military, brought his son Hunter to see the wall and to honor some of his friends.
“It’s something they need to learn about,” Stultz said. “I think it is a great educational opportunity.”
James McQueen, of Withamsville, and Jody DePew, of Union Township came to see the wall the day it arrived.
McQueen served in the Vietnam War.
“I have a friend on there that I grew up with,” McQueen said. “I could be on there.”
McQueen said he and his friend went to war together serving with the United States Army.
McQueen said he went to visit the wall in Washington D.C. and couldn’t find his friend’s name on the wall while he was there.
“I didn’t find it in D.C., but I found it here,” McQueen said as he clutched a rubbing of the name Orville Caudill. “I finally got it.”
McQueen said the wall certainly gives people something to think about.
“I am glad it is here,” he said. “Just don’t let them forget.”
For more information about the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, visit www.avtt.org.