[KHTS] – Months of preparation will come to fruition next week when the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall arrives in the Santa Clarita Valley on Wednesday afternoon.
The wall opens to the public with inaugural ceremonies on Thursday at 6 p.m., and through the end of the week there will be plenty of ways for the community to get involved, honor those who gave their lives and hear from local veterans who remember what it was like to be a soldier in Vietnam.
The truck carrying the wall will be escorted by American Legion and Patriot Guard Riders from Acton to Santa Clarita on Wednesday, between 3 and 4 p.m. Those who would like to greet the wall on its way to Westfield Valencia Town Center should line up on Magic Mountain Parkway by 3:30 p.m. The wall is expected to exit Interstate 5 at Magic Mountain by 3:45 p.m. and then proceed to the mall.
All evening ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m., except Sunday.
Opening ceremonies on Thursday in the Westfield parking lot adjacent to Citrus Street will be emceed by Fred Arnold of American Family Funding. After the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem, Assemblyman Scott Wilk, Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar and Vietnam veteran Bill Reynolds will speak, followed by a special presentation to Chuck Morris, who organized the event. Live entertainment by Jimmy Carnelli will finish the evening.
Friday night, emceed by KHTS AM-1220 Co-owner Carl Goldman, will feature county Supervisor Michael Antonovich, state Senator Steve Knight, Mike Mizrahi of the Southern California Gas Company and R.J. Kelly of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.
On Saturday night, audiences will hear from Dick Jeffrey, Vietnam veteran and president of Back to the War Zone nonprofit that helps send veterans back to their original area of combat so they can cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Gene Dorio of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital will introduce local doctors and nurses who served in Vietnam.
Entertainment that night will be provided by the Santa Clarita Valley Men of Harmony.
Closing ceremonies on Sunday night will begin at 5 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., with keynote speaker J.D. Kennedy of Veterans of Foreign Wars and a 21 gun salute by the All Veteran Honor Squad.
Throughout the weekend, there will be opportunities for members of the community to honor the fallen. The wall will be open 24-hours a day, with continuous live readings of the 58,238 names.
Local Boy Scout Troop 2222 and other troops from the Bill Hart District, in addition to community volunteers will take turns reading the names in 30 minute increments.
There are still plenty of shifts open to read names of fallen service men and women.
Arif Halaby, whose company Total Financial Solutions is sponsoring the event, wanted to remind residents of the importance of filling every slot to make the event a success.
“This is a way to honor those that have passed away,” Halaby said, “but more importantly, not just to honor them, but to remember them.”
Halaby also wants the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to be the “welcome home” that some Vietnam veterans never received.
“One of the biggest problems when people returned from Vietnam is that people didn’t respect them,” he said.
Total Financial Solutions is giving preference to family members and Vietnam veterans who would like to read a specific name.
Halaby said that three people have already come forward, including a father who lost his brother in the war. His son will read the name of the uncle he never knew.
Because of this, volunteers are asked to be flexible if their shift is changed.
Morris agreed that reading the names aloud is an important part of the experience.
“I talk to so many veterans that have seen the wall,” he said. “Whenever I say we’re going to read the names, they’re in awe.”
Signups will be available until the start of the event. Click here to find a shift.
For more information about the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, schedule of events and additional volunteer opportunities, click here.