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Len Derby of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 843 in Brattleboro speaks to members during a meeting of an Aug. 26 meeting of the group.

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‘Moving Wall’ coming soon to Brattleboro

Replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial arrives Sept. 16

For more information about the Moving Wall and VVA, or if you would like to volunteer, contact Derby at 802-368-7654 or lenvietvet@yahoo.com.

BRATTLEBORO—After more than two years of planning and the disruption of the pandemic, the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall is coming to town from Sept. 16 to 20.

The Moving Wall will be on display at Moore’s Field on Putney Road, in front of the Fulflex plant near the junction of Routes 5 and 9 and Interstate 91.

Len Derby, a member of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 843 in Brattleboro, has led efforts to bring to town the half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. He says he is very pleased with the amount of support that will make it possible.

The effort involves most of the veterans groups in the area and includes volunteers from local schools, donations of food and supplies from area businesses, donations of labor and materials from local contractors.

It also involves lots of monetary donations, big and small. The original fundraising goal of $15,000 has been surpassed.

“We’ve raised $19,000, and the money is still coming in,” said Derby at a VVA meeting at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1034 in Brattleboro on Aug. 26. “That’s OK, because we still aren’t sure how much this is all going to cost.”

Derby served in the Army in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 in an aviation brigade, then became an aircraft maintenance instructor after his tour in Vietnam. After his military service, he worked for various area companies.

He has been to Washington twice to see the original memorial, which opened in 1982. He said it is a “very moving experience for anyone,” but it is an experience that many area veterans have not had.

According to Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd., the group responsible for the care and transport of two such displays around the United States, the Moving Wall consists of 74 heavy aluminum panels. Like its counterpart in Washington, it contains the names of the 58,000 service members who were killed in action in the Vietnam War.

The biggest donation toward the Brattleboro visit has been use of the field where the Moving Wall will be displayed. Derby said Moore’s Field is an ideal location for its accessibility and its relative flatness.

The only hitch with the field, he said, was dealing with the flock of Canada geese that have been grazing on the field and leaving behind copious amounts of poop. The VVA volunteers are working on ways to get the geese to find another place to hang out while the wall is present.

Derby said a local carpenter volunteered to build a platform to hold the wall, and Home Depot in Keene, N.H., has donated the needed materials. A walkway built with wood chips supplied by Cersosimo Lumber will be spread by Brattleboro Rotary Club members.

The tentative schedule of events has the opening ceremony at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16, with the final walk and closing ceremony set for 4 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20.

The wall will be open around the clock while it is in Brattleboro, Derby said, and a security detail of former and current law enforcement personnel and other volunteers will be on duty at all times.

Tents will be set up for volunteers as well as for medical staff. Derby said the experience of seeing all the names of the fallen can be very intense for visitors, particularly for veterans and for the families of loved ones whose names are displayed on the Wall.

Calling the installation “a sacred place,” Derby said no pets, no food or drink, no smoking, and no loud talking will be permitted near the Moving Wall.

He also hopes that people will “take advantage of seeing the Wall,” which last visited Windham County in 2013, when it was displayed in Wilmington.

“It doesn’t come around very often,” Derby said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #628 (Wednesday, September 1, 2021). This story appeared on page A1.

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