NITRO, W.Va. — A travelling veterans memorial wall was given a permanent home Thursday in the City of Nitro.
Many came out to celebrate the retirement of the mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall and the 732 names of Vietnam veterans it carries with it to its final resting place at the Nitro Wars Museum.
A slew of hundreds of Run for the Wall motorcyclists, many of them veterans themselves, stopped into join the celebration on their way up to Washington D.C. to honor the 58,000 veterans in the memorial there.
“Being from West Virginia, when Joe asked me if I could get some bikes together, because I’m a platoon leader with the run, I said I would be honored to do it, so I got my guys and gal and we escorted this wall to its final resting place up here,” West Virginia Coordinator for the Run for the Wall motorcycle group, Todd Taylor told MetroNews Thursday.
Nitro residents and elementary school students also joined the celebration as they welcomed in the motorcycle escort and the now former mobile memorial.
West Virginia State Council President for the Vietnam Veterans of America, Dave Simmons has been leading the pack on the road with the mobile wall on its 11 year journey. He said it’s heart-wrenching to let the wall go but he knows it’s going to a good resting place.
“It’s a bittersweet memory for us to be able to have some place we know that the future generations can come out and look at it and see it,” Simmons said.
Simmons said he and fellow veterans have travelled nearly 10,000 miles with the memorial every year, attending various events and festivals and locations such as local VA hospitals throughout West Virginia, along with some places in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He said it’s the eighth year coming to Nitro and after having a hard time trying to find where to permanently place the memorial, he knows the museum there will be a safe location.
Simmons said that he and the rest of the veterans a part of the mobile memorial were getting to the point where they were not physically able to keep traveling as it was often grueling work, being on the road throughout the summer, hitting all of the patriotic holidays and events starting with Armed Forces Day all the way to Veterans Day.
However, one thing he said he will miss the most about being on the road is the fellowship with others.
“The comradery, the people, the friendship, the brothers,” Simmons said, “for us, every Vietnam veteran is either a brother or if she’s a female she’s our sister, automatically.”
After they escorted the wall in to Nitro, the Run for the Wall group was going to be making their way to their overnight stop in Rainelle before converging with the rest of the nearly 1,500 motorcyclists in Arlington tomorrow afternoon.
Taylor said Saturday morning they will be placing the Mission Complete plaques on the Vietnam Wall Memorial in D.C. to honor the veterans who never made it home.
“We ride for those who can’t, there’s a lot of people who can’t ride motorcycles and we’re out there doing it for them,” said Taylor.
Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt also came out to watch the wall be moved and he said it’s great that it’s now permanently coming to town.
“What they’re doing is they’re telling the story of those 732 people, and now they’re bestowing that on us and on the museum to tell the story, so it’s just a big honor for the city of Nitro,” Casebolt told MetroNews.
He said he thinks they were chosen by the West Virginia State Council for the Vietnam Veterans of America to display the wall, because of the patriotism which resides in the city and their immense honor they show for veterans.
“General Tackett called Nitro the most patriotic city in the most patriotic state in America, and I do, I think we resemble that,” said Casebolt. “We’re standing here at Living Memorial Park, we have our flag display out front, we have our Wars Museum, and we just have tremendous respect for our veterans.”
Simmons said he’s never felt more honored to be a Vietnam veteran than he is now.
“For us, for Vietnam veterans, it’s pretty cool, because when we came home we weren’t welcomed home, I had friends hurt from throwing stuff at us, spitting at us, but now, the patriotism in this country is turning around and it’s really making us feel good,” he said.
Simmons said there’s only one-third of Vietnam veterans left, and he said along the 732 names of those who died in battle, they now also have a modern wall which has the names of the 60 veterans lost since Vietnam.