On this last weekend of July, there is a very special reason to visit Chattanooga’s waterfront: “The Moving Wall” is the half-size replica of the Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has been touring the country for more than thirty years. When John Devitt attended the 1982 dedication in Washington, he felt the positive power of “The Wall.” He vowed to share that experience with those who did not have the opportunity to go to Washington.
Retired US Navy Capt. Mickey McCamish has led the local efforts to bring the Moving Wall to Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga. As he was helping set up the wall Thursday night, he reflected. “I served in Vietnam from 1967 until 1969,” McCamish said. “This wall brings back a lot of memories, it takes me right back to the DMZ South, with shipmates, friends, college friends, some of whom are no longer with us, and some of whom are on this wall.”
All 58,306 names of service members who died in the Vietnam war are on this wall, just as they are in Washington. “We’re proud to bring the wall to Chattanooga,” McCamish said. “We’ve heard from so many veterans and their families. They want to come, they need to come. They need healing, they need closure.”
The Wall represents a Vietnam Veteran’s tribute to his fallen comrades. It is 252.83 feet long and is the only replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Those killed came from all across the country. This is a special visit by The Wall since 2016 is the 50th Anniversary of the Commemoration of the Vietnam War.
“We are truly blessed to have this in Chattanooga, even for one weekend,” McCamish said. Their schedule stays full. We first made our request two years ago, and there have been lots of follow-up contacts just to keep our place in line.”
McCamish expects this weekend’s crowds to top the 21,000 who visited the LST 325 World War II vessel in September 2014. “The response has already been greater, even without a lot of advance publicity,” he said. “This is totally free, and we’ll have people in place to help people find the name of a friend or family member.”
There will be directories on site to help locate names on the 74 panels that are a part of the replica wall. “There are two wings involved in this wall, and we have volunteers lined up to help,” he said. “We’ll have rubbing papers and crayons so that folks can rub the impression of a friend’s name on to paper. That’s something they can cherish forever.”
What if someone has no connection to anyone who served, or lost their life in the Vietnam war? Do they have any reason to see this exhibit? “Absolutely,” McCamish said. “It’s been almost fifty years, and some younger people especially need to know, they need to understand what this was about. They need to know the impact this had on our nation and on our veterans. They need to know about the lives that were lost. This was a controversial and unpopular war among many Americans, and some of them turned their back on those of us who returned. But we never turned our back on America, believe me.”
The moving portable replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be at Ross’s Landing Friday July 29th through Sunday July 31st at no cost to the public. The Wall will be open to the public 24 hours a day; however, the official hours will be 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Friends of the Festival produces Riverfront Nights and secured the visit of The Moving Wall. Friends of the Festival is a nonprofit organization that manages and produces premier events which unite and enrich our region with emphasis on the vitality of our community.