Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is Heading for Coral Springs in October
By Bill Johnson / August 1, 2015
"The memorial is cut below grade, brutal and sharp as a knife wound into the earth. It is V-notched and black, like the night, like the memory, like death's foul breath." That's how William Cohen, a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of Defense, described the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall after visiting the memorial to search "with salt-filmed eyes" for the name of a former college classmate.
Cohen continued to write about a unique characteristic of this memorial: "By design I must descend progressively deeper into the hell of all the names that come like a blizzard of blood, the names no longer just numbers, but mind-numbing names that sing of America, of young men who once lived and laughed, who broke and bled into blackness. Etched into the mirrored marble the names come at random, not by alphabet, but by the tick of tragedy, the booby trap of time. And I am but one who carries out the long body count."
That body count includes 58,000 American military troops who gave their lives in the Vietnam War. Their names are inscribed in the black memorial that stretches 500 feet near the Washington, D.C. Mall. Every day, friends and family members search the cascade of names for the ones that are dear to them. Some trace the name on paper. Some leave flowers. Others leave small but significant items.
Of course, not everyone who lost a loved one is able to visit Washington. As a result, Lou Cimaglia, a longtime resident of Coral Springs, decided to dedicate his time and effort to bring the monument to this area - at least a mobile replica of it. At 250 feet long, the Moving Wall is half the size of the original memorial. Cimaglia was inspired by the powerful and emotional response it received in Wilmington, Massachusetts, where his son played a role in displaying it.
As Cimaglia puts it, "I got the blessing of the Coral Springs City Commission about a year and a half ago." Bolstered by support from the city, Cimaglia began a series of countless meetings. He became co-founder of the non-profit Veterans Coalition of Coral Springs and Chairman of the Moving Wall Committee.
His persistence eventually won the approval of the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall Museum Foundation to display his work in Coral Springs in October. The replica, made of powder-coated aluminum, will arrive on October 21 in an 18-wheel trailer truck. It will then be escorted to the Sportsplex by police and a Vietnam veterans motorcycle group, the Nam Knights. The piece will be installed in an open area on the morning of the October 22.
Although the work will be in Coral Springs, the Veterans Coalition hopes to make this a South Florida event involving veterans, businesses and community organizations throughout the region. An opening ceremony will be held on October 22. Cimaglia emphasizes that the event will be short, including brief remarks by Vietnam War veterans. Then there will be silence as survivors of the war visit and pay homage to those whose names are on it. There will also be brief ceremonies on October 23 and 24, as well as a solemn closing ceremony on October 25.
It costs money to transport the Moving Wall and maintain it. As a result, the local group has a goal of raising $10,000, $5,000 for the foundation and another $5,000 to cover local associated costs. Although it has been displayed in every state since 1984, Cimaglia has found that several young people know little or nothing about the Vietnam War. Because the war ended in 1973, many South Floridians were not yet even born when the war ended. "It's a shame," Cimaglia says. "This was an important and dark time in our history."
To educate young people about this important chapter in America's history, the Veterans Coalition is working to organize trips for area school students. After nearly two years of work, he's eager to see thousands of people visit each day. Articles left behind at the Moving Wall will be collected and safely stored for eventual display at a museum the foundation is planning to establish in Michigan. The museum will preserve the history of the war and educate the general public. For now, Lou Camiglia and the Veterans Coalition of Coral Springs want to be sure those who served and died are not forgotten. That is something many Vietnam veterans say is long overdue.
You can learn more about the Veterans Coalition and the memorial at the organization's web site, www.vietnammemorialwall.org. You can also email Cimaglia at email@example.com.
Bill Johnson is a career reporter and aide to former Senator William Cohen.
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