There is a story behind every one of the more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Rhona Knox Prescott of Lewes, who served as an operating room nurse in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, found on one panel eight names of comrades who died when their helicopter was shot down. Prescott said she carried guilt around with her for many years because she was supposed to be on the helicopter but her friend, Eleana Alexander, took her place. “They were on their way to set up a hospital. They were the cream of the crop,” she said.
Prescott worked in Washington, D.C., and has visited the wall on the National Mall many times. She says it's therapeutic, but it also still hurts.
Joe Peltz, who works for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, served in the U.S. Army from 1970-71. He etched two names of helicopter pilots who saved his life during a fire fight.
The Moving Wall has been visiting cities and towns around the United States since 1984, just two years after the memorial in Washington, D.C., opened. It's in Lewes until Monday, May 20.
Post 17 hosted a May 16 opening ceremony for Vietnam veterans that included a flyover from Dover Air Force Base, the laying of a ceremonial wreath, and welcomes from Lewes Mayor Ted Becker, Post 17 Commander Edwin Bergen and Heath Gehrke of the Delaware River and Bay Authority.
Post 17 Auxiliary President Murt Foos, master of ceremonies, and Kellie Bergen, veterans affairs chair for the post, thanked sponsors and volunteers. The two played a key role in making the dream of bringing the wall to Lewes a reality.
Two South Vietnam refugees, Thinh Pham, owner of Minh's Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, and Tuan Tran, a fighter pilot during the war, also spoke and thanked veterans and their families for their sacrifices.
Sponsored by Lewes American Legion Post 17, the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall is free and open to the public 24 hours a day on the grounds of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal through Sunday, May 19. At 10 a.m., Monday, May 20, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper will visit with children; the wall will close to the public at 2 p.m.
A candlelight vigil will take place each evening at 8 p.m. and will feature the playing of bagpipes and “Taps.’”
A special tribute ceremony is planned for 11 a.m., Saturday, May 18, that will include remarks on the 100th anniversary of the American Legion, Armed Forces Day and POW/MIA tributes, and a musical tribute by the Delaware State Police Pipes & Drums Corps.
Post 17 will be open to the public serving food from noon to 8 p.m., Friday, May 17, Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, and noon to 4 p.m., Monday, May 20. There will be live music and the Museum of Us will feature Vietnam War artifacts and photos. Nancy Lynch, author of “Vietnam Mailbag: Voices from the War, 1968-1972,” will be in the Post 17 pavilion from noon to 5 p.m. on May 18.