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Moving Wall Visits Plum Island Airport in Honor of Vietnam Veterans

By Caitlin Dowling, Newburyport.com Correspondent
Caitlin is a freelance editor/writer and former news producer for CNN. As a local mom of three, her family can be found enjoying all Newburyport has to offer, from strolling downtown to biking the rail trail to swimming at the beach.
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The Moving Wall, a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was on display at Plum Island Airport in Newbury, MA during Labor Day Weekend 2021, from 6 pm on 9/2 through 6 am 9/7. The replica, which is 252.83 feet long and consists of 58,272 names, has been touring the country since 1984 and includes approximately 1,300 people who are still unaccounted for prisoners of war (POW’s) and missing in action (MIA).

Vietnam Veterans were not honored for their service to our country as they returned home. The idea to create the Moving Wall was originated  by a Vietnam Veteran, John Devitt who while attending the the 1982 dedication in Washington DC, was inspired to share the positive power of “The Wall.” John Devitt, Norris Shears, Gerry Heaver and other Vietnam Veterans built the Moving Wall in order to honor and show gratitude to as many Vietnam Veterans as possible throughout the country.

The Moving Wall was escorted to the Plum Island Airport by NEMLAC (NE MA Law Enforcement Council), Patriot Riders, and AmesburyMoving Wall, Plum Island, Newbury MA and Newbury police. Residents and tourists were invited to line the procession route and welcome its arrival at the airport. Visitors were also encouraged to attend the wall’s opening ceremony featuring a wreath-laying ceremony by decorated Vietnam Veterans, a welcome home ceremony, keynote speakers, and a fly-over by the state police.

The Moving Wall was available for viewing twenty-four hours a day until its disassembly on Tuesday, September 7th at 6 am. Up to 20,000 visited this solemn memorial that honored our heroes throughout its stay, including about two thousand area veterans who were personally invited. Volunteers were onsite twenty-four hours a day assisting visitors as greeters, helping them look up names of the fallen, and escorting them to the correct panel on the Moving Wall. Grief counselors provided by the Lowell Vet Center were also be on hand.

The Moving Wall’s visit to the area was a project ten years in the making for the chief organizer of the event, Dennis Palazzo, who finally secured a date in November 2020. For Palazzo, who had a close friend on the wall, it was an emotional experience to finally have the opportunity to bring the monument to the area.

“Freedom is not free, it comes with a cost, and the cost is written on that wall,” said Palazzo.

Palazzo and the official host of the Moving Wall, Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming Board of Directors, worked tirelessly with a group of close to 100 volunteers to make this event possible. The outpouring of support from the community to aid Palazzo in bringing this memorial to the area was huge. He has raised over $20,000 from sponsors, local restaurants and shops donated meals and goods, the National Guard supplied a command tent, and Newbury police and firemen offered up their time pro bono.

“It’s an honor to bring the wall to the area. The names on the wall each represent a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice and never made it home,” said Palazzo.


Moving Wall Procession Route from Amesbury Furniture Outlet to Plum Island Airport:
Down Market Street to Amesbury Center, continue Up Friend St., go 3/4’s around Rotary onto Main St., continue on Main St. across Route 110, under Route 495, turn Left to stay on Main St., bear Right onto Spofford St., over the Chain Bridge (Newburyport), continue half around the Rotary – 2nd exit – onto Moseley Ave., merge Left onto High St., (Route 113) for about 3.5 miles, turning Left onto Rolfes Lane, (Newbury), turning Right onto Plum Island Airport (ETA a bit before 6:00 p.m.) – with Escort Motorcycles parking on the Airport Runway, in designated area.