Keith Matthews of the Enumclaw VFW Post 1949 presented his plan for the moving Vietnam Memorial during the Feb. 10 council meeting. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Keith Matthews of the Enumclaw VFW Post 1949 presented his plan for the moving Vietnam Memorial during the Feb. 10 council meeting. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Replica of Vietnam Memorial making Enumclaw stop

A local vet has spent six years trying to secure this opportunity.

The Moving Wall, which pays tribute to more than 58,000 American who lost their lives in Vietnam, will be making a summertime stop in Enumclaw.

Keith Matthews, a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, presented details about The Moving Wall’s appearance during the Feb. 10 session of the Enumclaw City Council.

The wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that was dedicated in 1982 in Washington, D.C. It will be available to visitors for four days, Aug. 6-9.

Matthews has spent six years lining up an Enumclaw appearance of the wall. “It means a lot to me,” he told the council. “I’m a Vietnam veteran and a lot of our post members are Vietnam veterans, also.”

Getting such a significant landmark to Enumclaw was no easy task, he related. “I never anticipated the amount of work when I took this on,” Matthews said, noting that Enumclaw Post 1949 of the VFW is 100 percent behind the effort.

The Moving Wall is engraved with the names of 58,228 Americans who died during the Vietnam War, with the final three added in May 2002. The war is generally considered to have been fought from late 1955 until the fall of Saigon at the end of April 1975 and spread through several countries of Southeast Asia.

There are now two Moving Walls that travel throughout the country, one of which will be placed in the large, grassy field between Sunrise and Southward elementary schools.

“The Enumclaw School District has bent over backward helping us,” Matthews said. The district owns the property, used primarily for soccer, and has cleared all events from the grounds during the Wall’s stay.

Matthews reported the Moving Wall will be trucked into Enumclaw, escorted by law enforcement personnel and members of the Patriot Guard motorcycle group. It will be assembled on the field, situated so Mount Rainier provides a majestic backdrop.

During its stay in Enumclaw, Matthews said, the Moving Wall will be open to the public 24 hours a day. There will be lighting at night and ceremonies every morning. The Moving Wall is known to stir strong emotions and some visitors ask for private time; for that reason, Matthews said, local organizers will arrange special visits for veterans and their families.

Evening security will be provided by the Army National Guard and members of the special forces stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Regarding the nighttime security, Matthews acknowledged the Moving Walls has been the target of vandalism. “There have been some incidents,” he said, “from people who don’t like it for some reason or other.”

HONORING LOCAL CASUALTIES

Matthews said part of the local presentation will “honor four Enumclaw gentlemen who were killed in Vietnam.”

The four are Donnie Biarum, Gerald Steven Hansen, Larry Joe Malatesta and Jeffrey Allan Schweikl.

Matthews has made contact with just one of the families and is hoping to speak with relatives of all four. Anyone with information is asked to contact him by email: bfh.org@gmail.com.

SOME MOVING WALL DETAILS

The Moving Wall stands 6 feet tall at the center and gradually tapers to 4-foot panels at each end. The structure consists of two walls, each being 126.2 feet in length, for a total length of 252.4 feet. That’s half the size of the D.C. memorial and nearly the length of a football field.

The Moving Wall is now made of aluminum panels. The original Plexiglas panel and wood-framed structure was retired after the 1986 season and was replaced by Formica-laminated masonite panels and steel tubular framing. However, the varied and often severe weather conditions proved too harsh for the laminated panels and both structures were completely rebuilt at the end of 1988.

THE STORY BEHIND THE MOVING WALL

The story begins in 1982 when John Devitt attended the dedication Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and departed vowing to share the experience with those who did not have the opportunity to visit the nation’s capitol.

He and other Vietnam veterans built The Moving Wall, which went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas, in October 1984. A second Moving Wall was built in the late 1980s and, due to high demand, a third was built in 1995. One has been retired and is on permanent display while the other two travel the United States from April through November, spending about a week at each site.

Matthews said it has been two or three years since a Moving Wall appeared in Washington state, when it made a stop in the Tri-Cities. This summer, the Moving Wall will be on display in the small Eastern Washington town of Newport, not too far north of Spokane, before heading to Enumclaw.


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