Stockton hosts Vietnam Moving Wall for five days
STOCKTON — Local Vietnam veterans are realists.
They don’t know what the future may hold for them, many still suffering the effects of having fought in the Vietnam War 50 years ago. So they’ve poured their energy into making the five-day visit of the Vietnam Moving Wall, which opened Thursday, something extraordinary.
“It’s our last hurrah,” said Bob Appler, who with others in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts has worked to coordinate events surrounding the visit.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the wall’s visit to Weber Point at 3 p.m. Thursday, but a ceremony at noon Saturday is likely to be the most emotionally impactful. Surviving veterans and their spouses/partners/significant others will be recognized.
“When we left Vietnam we promised two things,” Appler said. “To never forget those we served with and never leave a man behind. With the recovery of Capt. (Richard L.) Whitesides (in 2014), all of Stockton’s sons are home now. And we kept our promise that we would remember.”
This is the second visit to Stockton and the third overall to San Joaquin County of the Vietnam Moving Wall, a halfsize replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The traveling exhibit is made of aluminum instead of granite, but bears the names of all 58,322 Americans who lost their lives because of that conflict.
The wall was in Stockton in 2008 and Lodi in 2002.
“In 2008 as soon as it left, I put in paperwork to bring it back,” said Tino Adame, American Legion state chairman of veteran affairs and rehabilitation and former commander of the Karl Ross American Legion post. “We’re older now, and a lot of our friends and relatives aren’t here. It puts a different perspective on it, that this might be for a lot of us, our last hurrah.”
Veterans groups arranged for the moving wall’s visit to Stockton in 2008, but Adame asked the city for help with the cost this time, and it was readily given.
“Tino Adame came to a council meeting and said (the Karl Ross American Legion Post) wanted to bring it to Stockton,” said Community Services Director John Alita. “As we started to talk to him about how the city might help . ... we thought it would be a great honor, a great thing to bring it back to the city.”
The city of Stockton contributed $12,000 to the cost, including the expense of 24-hour security at Weber Point, as the gates will be open today through Monday for visitors.
During that time, all of the names on the wall will be read. Counselors will be on hand for veterans who may need someone to speak to, Appler said.
“A lot still suffer from (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Appler said. “We will have counselors there day and night because we figured (nighttime) is when PTSD veterans will show up.”
Adame said he hopes more than veterans show up. The wall is for and about them, but there’s more to it.
“This isn’t taught in schools,” Adame said. “It’s up to us, our generation, to teach the community and our younger generation. We need to teach them what the wall is about and to not forget these men and women. It’s history. Stockton is going through history these next few days at Weber Point.”