Vietnam Moving Wall comes to Town of Natick
June 13, 2011
A late spring thunderstorm drove the opening ceremony indoors, but no amount of rain could dampen the spirit of veterans, family members, friends and current service members June 9 as The Moving Wall came to Natick (Mass.) High School for a four-day stay.
With the occasional rumble of thunder in the background, participants inside the school auditorium paid tribute to 11 Natick residents whose names are found on the traveling half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial along with those of 58,000-plus other Americans who died in that war. The wall bears the names of more than 1,300 Massachusetts residents.
As the name of each fallen Natick resident was read, family members and friends stood, and a current service member walked slowly across the stage to a wreath representing him, stood and saluted. The 11 Natick fallen included five Soldiers, three Marines, two Sailors and an Airman. Their average age was 23.
One of the Soldiers " Staff Sgt. Dennis Poteat " was stationed at Natick Soldier Systems Center before going to Vietnam. The other 10 service members included Army 1st Lt. Arthur Wright, Navy Hospital 3rd Class Thomas Donovan, Marine Lance Cpl. Dennis Higgins, Marine 2nd Lt. Allen Loane, Marine Cpl. Keith Flumere, Army Pfc. John Madden Jr., Air Force 1st Lt. Roger Brown, Navy Chief Electrician Eldon Tozer, Army Spc. Kevin Lynch, and Army Cpl. Richard Rinehart.
"These were 11 young men, some of them teenagers, who answered the call for service to the nation and, sadly, they made the ultimate sacrifice," said guest speaker Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, NSSC senior commander. "I know it has been many years since these 11 young men gave their lives, but I know to their family and friends, it never gets easier and their sacrifice is no less profound."
McGuiness, who has served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, asked Vietnam veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized. The round of applause they received put the thunder to shame.
"We as a nation have learned many valuable lessons since the Vietnam War," McGuiness said. "Many of those Soldiers … some of you … returned from Vietnam to a nation divided. Many of you did not receive the thanks for your dedication, your selfless service, your personal courage, that you so justly deserved."
Charles Hughes, chairman of the Natick Board of Selectmen, thanked the volunteers whose efforts brought the wall to town.
"This wall commemorates the sacrifice made by these men and women," Hughes said. "These men and women served our country at a very difficult time. This wall provides us with an opportunity to honor their sacrifice. They served. They made the ultimate sacrifice. They must never be forgotten."
"This is a true testament to the wonderful community spirit of the Town of Natick," said State Representative David Linsky.
State Senator Karen Spilka thanked the veterans in the audience. "We won't ever forget the sacrifice that you made for our state and for our country," she said.
McGuiness asked the audience to use the presence of The Moving Wall to learn about the sacrifices made by Vietnam veterans.
"Ask them to share their stories and experiences," McGuiness said. "And take a moment to thank them for what they did."