American Veterans Traveling Tribute in SWLA

May 3, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

In the nation's capitol, there are memorials and exhibits honoring and documenting the wars that thousands of American soldiers fought.  But, many of the veterans do not have the money or the health to travel all the way to Washington, D.C. to view these remembrances first-hand. This week, though, replicas of these memorials are coming to our own local veterans.

It's been close to a year of planning and fundraising at the American Legion Post 208 in Vinton to bring what's called "The American Veteran's Traveling Tribute" to Southwest Louisiana and now, it has finally become a reality.

Once their motors were ready, a motorcycle group known as "The Mavericks" led a patriotic escort through Vinton for the trucks carrying war memorial replicas.  Brent Touchet was one of the riders in the crew.  He says, "For me, it was important, because my daddy's a Vietnam vet and they've got a bunch of guys in our group that are Vietnam vets."

These veterans made their way to the American Legion home where war memorials and exhibits going all the way back to the Revolutionary War will be on display.  President and CEO of the traveling tribute, Don Allen, says, "Our mission is to provide a forum for communities to come together to honor, respect and remember all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country."

On the Vietnam Memorial alone, there are more than 58,000 names.  Linda Clark-Ford is deeply attached to one of those names.  "My brother's name is on this wall," says Clark-Ford, "He was one of the fallen soldiers."  James "Jiggs" Collins is a Vietnam veteran himself.  Collins says, "I've got a few buddies on the wall. It still hurts a lot, but dealing with it by seeing it and it's out does help."

Many of the veterans say that if it's even for just a moment to grasp the magnitude of our nation's wars, these memorials can provide insight to the past and give closure to many that made huge sacrifices for our country.  Buford Turner with the American Legion says, "It's a solemn occasion. We want to heal wounds and recognize veterans and active-duty military."

Be sure to tune into Sunrise tomorrow morning where we will have a couple of special guests live in the studio with more information on events taking place in our area while these memorials are in town.

The following is a schedule of events through Sunday:
*Thursday: Opening ceremonies at 11:45 a.m. with a B-52 flyover
*Friday: POW/MIA Candlelight Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. ending with 21-gun salute
*Saturday: Gold Star Mothers Presentation at 6:00 p.m.
*Sunday: Worship Service at 8:00 a.m.