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Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at Hampton Community Park

| Friday, June 30, 2017, 12:48 p.m.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at Hampton Community Park on June 29, 2017.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Larry Killmeyer, who served in Vietnam and grew up in Hampton, looks at the thousands of names engraved on the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at Hampton Community Park last week.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at Hampton Community Park on June 29, 2017.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at Hampton Community Park on June 29, 2017.

The Traveling Vietnam Wall got thousands of visitors each day as it was displayed in Hampton last week, according to Chris Lochner, township manager.

The replica of the historic memorial in Washington, D.C., arrived and was erected on June 29 where it was available for viewing 24 hours a day, said Lochner. The wall, provided through the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, is an 80-percent, scaled-down version of the actual monument complete with 58,313 names on it, measuring 8 feet tall and 360 feet long.

The township was fortunate to have the wall, which travels to areas across the country, on Hampton's July 3rd Independence Day Community Celebration. After a closing ceremony, it was dismantled on July 4, according to Vic Son, president of Township Council.

The wall, which was situated near the community center, attracted an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 visitors, said Lochner.

On last Monday's community celebration he said they could've easily had between 40,000 to 50,000 visitors that day overall, whether they were there for the annual Independence Day event or the wall.

Son said it was well-received and eye-opening on the effect it had to visitors.

“It was successful for us in a way that it was an opportunity for us to see the emotional impact,” said Son.

He said a variety of people visited the wall, including families with young children and military veterans. Son said he witnessed those etching names on the wall, and others just intently focusing on names.

Lochner said people came from all over the local area and even at 3 and 4 a.m. as it was lit and open 24 hours a day. Both Son and Lochner said it couldn't have been done without the 60-plus local volunteer ambassadors for the traveling wall, including one veteran and his wife, both of whom were in their 80s, who kept vigil day and night.

While it opened with a ceremony on its arrival, Son said they also had a closing ceremony after which more volunteers showed up to help take down the wall.

“People who were there … just jumped right in,” said Lochner.

The annual community event on July 3 also was a success with a record-number of vendor booths and free games and activities for children inside and outside of the community center. Alex Zarenko, director of community services for Hampton Township, said there were 32 booths this year, a slight increase from 30 last year.

He also said many took advantage of the free swimming at the outdoor community pool, including approximately 800 people within two hours.

“That's really good,” he said. “They line up at the gate when it's ready to open.”

A downpour late in the afternoon did upset a few tents and even downed a tree near the playground, said Lochner. But soon after everyone got back on their feet, so to speak, and the festivities continued, including music by the Austin Drive Band.

Fireworks by Pyrotecnico began at dusk after the singing of the national anthem and recognition of veterans, who received a standing ovation, said Son.

Police Chief Tom Vulakovich said everything went smoothly as well with the traffic which they adjusted to accommodate those traveling onto Route 8 after the fireworks.

The whole police department was out helping, said Vulakovich. They also had some help from the Indiana Township police department as well as others. And the local fire police and fire departments, particularly North Hampton, were instrumental in the day's success.

“We couldn't do it without the volunteers,” Vulakovich said.

Hampton Township Volunteer Fire Department monitored the fireworks that evening, said North Hampton Volunteer Fire Chief John Schwend.

He said all of North Hampton's 15 members spent the day at the celebration, including another approximately 10 volunteers from neighboring departments, he said.

“Everything went as smoothly as it could,” Schwend said.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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