DERIDDER, La. (KPLC) - The traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is in DeRidder. The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. There are currently 58,307 names on The Wall, 884 are from Louisiana, 8 are from Beauregard Parish.
Faith Scott, Executive Director for the War Memorial Civic Center in DeRidder, said she approached the Civic Center Board in a meeting to originally try and get the Moving Wall to come to DeRidder for Memorial Day, but it was already booked. She says after setting it up early Thursday morning and seeing the community coming together to support it makes it worthwhile.
“Our purpose for wanting to bring it here is that we know there are so many people who may never get that opportunity to go to D.C. so this gives them a half-size replica view of the wall that’s in D.C," Scott said. "We wanted to bring that here for folks to see and honor and remember those Vietnam Veterans. There have been quite a few people who came and expressed their sincere thanks for bringing it here.”
An opening ceremony was held on Thursday afternoon. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapters 1138 and 1215 attended and participated.
Terry Courville, Vietnam Veterans of America Louisiana State President, says while helping set up the wall Thursday morning, he personally placed a panel that had the name of one of his fellow soldiers he served with while in Vietnam.
“It’s a bittersweet thing,” Courville said. “We lost a lot of good people, but we carried on for them. We carried on.”
He said when he was drafted he did his training at Fort Polk before being sent to Vietnam. He says he spent over 7 months in combat before being wounded on December 23, 1968. He says the spent two months in the hospital in Japan before moving back to Fort Polk to become a drill instructor to finish his tour.
“I re-upped for six months just to finish my tour,” Courville said. “I made a lot of good friends, who are still friends, all over the world.”
Courville said the opening ceremony is the same ceremony they would hold while in Vietnam; they used a soldier’s boots, helmet, weapon, and dog tags.
The boots used in this ceremony belonged to DeRidder native Charles Poe, a helicopter pilot while in Vietnam. Courville says Poe donated his boots before he died.
“It was our funeral for our buddies we would never see again, you know?" Courville said. "So we do this ceremony to honor our fallen brothers. The helmet represents he is now protected and the weapon reminds us his battle is over and that he may now rest in peace.”
The Moving Wall will be at the War Memorial Civic Center in DeRidder for the extended Veterans Day weekend. It will be open to the public 24 hours a day.