Vietnam Memorial Wall Leaves Valley

The Vietnam Memorial Wall has moved on.

The Ohio Valley had 75 hours to pay tribute to members of the military who died during the Vietnam Conflict, and thousands did so.

The wall contains more than 58,000 names, eight of which were from Marshall County.

Sunday was the final day the memorial was in the Ohio Valley, before moving on to Graceson, Ky. During the day three major events took place, including a more than 2-hour multi-denomination religious ceremony at Monarch Stadium attended, a banquet for all military veterans, family members and friends and a final ceremony at the wall.

As part of the closing ceremony, at which TAPS was played by Moundsville Honor Guard member Phil Cameron, the veterans who participated in the ceremony turned and placed their hands on the wall, after which several hugged one another, while many on-lookers were seen wiping tears from their face.

While the wall arrived in Moundsville on Wednesday afternoon, it was available for 24-hour viewing starting at noon on Thursday.

With the exception of military boats on the Ohio River and the ceremony at Monarch Stadium, the other events took place on Jefferson Avenue. While the wall and the Traveling Tribute were on Jefferson Avenue and Eighth Street, off of Jefferson, respectively, there were military exhibits within the walls of the former West Virginia Penitentiary. Several military-related organizations, along with major sponsor the United Mine Workers of America, setup booths along Jefferson Avenue at which information was provided about the organizations.

The keynote speaker for the ceremony at Monarch Stadium was Marine Sgt. Major Lee D. Bonar, a native of Ohio County who has been in the military for 27 years. Bonar is currently stationed at Quantico, Va. Ceremony moderator Tom Burgoyne referred to Bonar as a “hometown hero” was has been highly decorated while serving in the military.

“I love what I do … serving you, Bonar said. “I have been all over the world where countless are less fortunate.”

“I am honored to be here,” he said. “We all serve a purpose.”

Bonar also expressed thanks to families for their love and compassion, hard work and dedication.

Others taking part were Ron Price, John E. Freeman, Jeff Hancock and Chris Figaretti. Music will be presented by Rosalind Agnew and the Ohio Valley Choir, the Chrisagis Brothers, Freeman and the Gospel Wonders. Others taking part in the ceremony were members of Boy Scout Troop No. 78 and Venture Crew Troop No. 78, Ezra and Audra Hamilton sang the national anthem. Closing remarks were given by project coordinator Philip Remke.

According to Rich King, a project co-coordinator, monetary contributions made toward the Cost of Freedom event enabled veterans to attend the banquets at no cost, with family and friends paying.

The United Mine Workers of America, who donated $10,000, to the OVCOF to help offset the cost of bring the Vietnam Wall to the Ohio Valley, also has a booth, as does the Marshall County Commission, a Liberty sponsor of the event along with Joe Dakan of Kernes, W.Va., and Main Street Bank.

Justice for All Sponsors were Belmont County Veterans Service Center, Carenbauer Distributing, Corp., Consol Energy and several area American Legion Posts.

Stars & Stripes sponsors were the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 14, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local No. 83, and employees and subconstractors of Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., of Natrium.

There were several Patriot sponsors and in-kind sponsors.

King said the OVCOF committee is very pleased the numbers who visited the Vietnam Wall and the other displays, and also, the fact that many people have chosen to walk or be shuttled to the Upper Moundsville Business District to view the displays which the merchants have placed in their store windows. He noted that the food vendors who the committee arranged to have in the city were also very pleased to have been a part of this patriotic effort.