COQUILLE — Coos County Veterans Services is seeking volunteers for the organizations upcoming tribute ceremony in September in which the group will be hosting a viewing of a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Coquille.
Barye Bluth of the Coos County Veterans Services said this will be the first time since the 1990s that the wall will be making an appearance in Coos County. The wall, which is an 80 percent replica, is about 360 feet long with heights reaching 8 feet in the air. It features the names of over 50,000 veterans who served in the Vietnam War.
In 2016, Bluth said after speaking with the spouse of a Vietnam veteran, the two shared stories on their experiences of witnessing Vietnam veterans being mistreated and misjudged.
“For many years, I’ve seen lots of broken-hearted Vietnam veterans,” said Bluth. “I’ve heard lots of stories over the years of how these veterans were mistreated. We just got to thinking we need to do something for them to honor their service.”
With the passage of Measure 96, the Oregon Portion of Lottery Proceeds for Support of Veterans Amendment, Bluth said she was able to cover some of the wall’s costs with funds from that measure. The amendment allocates 1.5 percent of state lottery net proceeds to veteran services throughout the state. Bluth said they received an additional $52,000 for this fiscal year to use toward enhancing their services and operations.
The Traveling Vietnam Wall, which is operated by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute in Texas, will be arriving Sept. 12 at the Coos County Fairgrounds in Myrtle Point. It will then be escorted by a motor parade to Sturdivant Park in Coquille at around 4 p.m., with assistance from the Coos County Sheriff’s Office, the Myrtle Point Police Department and the Coquille Police Department.
The Patriot Guard Riders, a nonprofit organization that assists with military funerals, will also be escorting the wall. According to Bluth, anyone is welcomed to join the escort to Coquille.
The following day, an opening ceremony will take place at 3 p.m., featuring a few speeches from local Vietnam veterans and 21-gun salute by the Bandon Veterans Honor Guard, as well as a potential visit from U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio.
“We sent out an invitation for him to come speak,” said Bluth. “As of right now, we are not sure if he will attend.”
The wall will be on display until Sept. 16 and regular hours will be from 8 a.m-8 p.m. Currently the group has about 80 volunteers but is looking to have a total of 220. Bluth said they are looking for people to do a range of tasks including help with setup and cleaning.
“We will also have a book and an electronic system to use on site to look up names on the wall,” said Bluth. “We will be needing volunteers to help with that.”
Visitors will also have the chance to trace the names of those on wall with materials provided by the Coos County Veterans Services. The next steering meeting will take place July 9 at the Owen Building in Coquille for those interested in assisting with the event. The Sawdust Theatre will also be hosting a benefit to support the Traveling Wall on Sept. 7.
“This event feels sacred to me,” said Bluth. “It’s really about honoring those who gave so much for us to be free.”