Harborites will have an opportunity to honor Vietnam War veterans this Independence Day, with the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds playing host to the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall.
The wall, which is a portable replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. , will arrive in Elma Wednesday, accompanied by motorcyclists from Rolling Thunder and other local motorcycle clubs. Rolling Thunder is a national motorcycle club that honors prisoners of war and military men and women missing in action. The display will be open to the public Thursday through Sunday.
Bill Parrish, president of the local Rolling Thunder chapter, organized the display after viewing the wall in Moses Lake. Parrish served in the Navy from 1969 to 1972 during the Vietnam War, and said viewing the wall for the first time can be incredibly moving for veterans.
“It’s an emotional experience because we all remember things,” Parrish said. “It’s personal and emotional.”
Parrish said he wanted to bring the wall to his community because many veterans aren’t able to visit the permanent display in Washington D.C. He also said he hopes to teach younger generations about the cost and reach of war.
While Parrish played a large part in organizing the display, he said bringing the wall to Grays Harbor was truly a community effort, with a large portion of the costs being covered by Grays Harbor Tourism. The wall will be accompanied by a Field of Honor, a field filled with American flags, at 50 Schouweiler Tracts Rd. in Elma. The display will open July 4 at noon with an opening ceremony. On July 5, military families will be honored at noon, police officers and firefighters will be honored at 5 p.m. and a band will play at 8 p.m.
On July 6, motorcyclists will gather in McCleary at 9 a.m. for an event called “Ride the Wall” and arrive at the wall at 11 a.m. At 6 p.m., the fairgrounds will host Veterans Night at the Races and bands will play at 8 p.m. There will be a vigil and prayer at the Field of Honor at dusk.
Sunday services will be held at the fairgrounds at 10 a.m. July 7. For more information about the display or events, call the Grays Harbor County Fairground offices at 360-482-2651.