Tuesday, 18 June 2024

County says farewell to The Moving Wall

The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team retires the colors during the closing ceremony for The Moving Wall on Monday, June 15, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – After months of work and planning, and several breathless days filled with ceremonies, visitors and memories, the community paused on Monday to bid farewell to The Moving Wall.

The traveling Vietnam memorial opened June 11, and on Monday it was time for it to prepare to move on to its next stop in Marinette, Wis.

Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 951, who brought the wall to the county, held the closing ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

Chapter President Dean Gotham said that more than 3,000 visitors – an estimate he called conservative – came to pay tribute at the wall over its four-day visit, making the wall's appearance “a true community event.”

The event's guest speaker was Art Grothe, a prosecutor in the county District Attorney's Office who, in March, returned from his second tour of duty in the Middle East.

Beyond his own service, Grothe had another connection to the memorial.

“My brother's name is on that wall,” he said, recalling his brother, Lewis Grothe – known to his friends as “Jeep.”

Lewis Grothe is one of 10 local men whose names are on the wall. He served in the Army's First Infantry Division. He died on Jan. 10, 1967, at age 20 in Binh Duong, South Vietnam.

Art Grothe recalled his family taking his brother to the San Francisco Airport in 1966, when he left to report for active duty. As the family was leaving the airport, Grothe said his father spotted a young Army enlisted man, and brought the young man along because he needed a ride. Grothe's father felt it was important to look after the young military man.

Grothe said combat zones are places of dirt, mud, lack of sleep and fear. Such places also, he added, are “a long, long ways from home.”

“Most in the military tend to develop a profound sense of caring for one another,” he said.

Much of that arises out of a sense of common experience and concern. Grothe said it's one of the greatest attributes not just of veterans but of the country.

In the case of Vietnam, the country didn't show such caring for its military. “Some confused the policy with the people in Vietnam,” Grothe said.

But that seems to have changed now, with the members of the military today appearing to benefit from a renewed sense of respect and honor from the country, he said.

The nation entrusts its liberties to young people who willingly go into dangerous places. Grothe said they're owed honor and support. “Your presence here shows you all understand that.”

Gotham thanked the community for its support for the wall.

Explaining VVA's reason for bringing the wall to Lake County, Gotham explained, “It was an act of love and support for those who paid the ultimate price.”

He quoted President John Kennedy, who said “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

Gotham said bringing The Moving Wall to Lake County offered the community to reveal itself and its priorities.

“Lake County stands very tall,” he said, adding that he's “so proud” of the county and its response to the memorial.

Gotham said the wall is “about the community that we all are.”

“Never forget,” he reminded the gathering of about 100 people.

He also offered thanks to his group and volunteers, the Royal Rangers – who during the ceremony stood at attention along the wall – and the Sea Scouts, the county Veterans Service Office, the Ukiah veterans clinic and Janet Taylor, a crisis counselor who spent many hours at the wall during its visit to offer support to grieving visitors.

Chaplain Herman “Woody” Hughes offered the closing blessing, with the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team giving the rifle salvo and a bugler playing “Taps.”

As the ceremony ended, bagpiper Peter Kapp appeared from beyond the far end of the wall, and slowly walked its length playing “Amazing Grace.” Some veterans wept during the final tribute, which Gotham said later was meant to be a “symbol of completion.”

Following the ceremony, as many people took a last look at the names on the wall, work to dismantle the wall began almost immediately, with the memorial supposed to be packed up by 4 p.m. It will leave Lakeport Tuesday morning.

Standing by to take the wall to its next stop was John Devitt, who – along with wife, Joy – is one of the wall's caretakers. Devitt, the founder and chairman of Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd., the organization that created The Moving Wall, called Lake County's presentation of the memorial “excellent.”

Gotham noted during the ceremony, Monday was the 25th anniversary of The Moving Wall.

It was a quarter-century ago that Devitt, after having seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington,wanted to share it with others.

A Vietnam veteran himself, Devitt said seeing the memorial – with more than 53,000 names of those killed in the war or who went missing in action – had a “profound impact” on him. Devitt also realized that not everyone would be able to go to Washington, DC to see it. So the half-size replica was created.

Devitt said he only expected to tour with the wall for a year or so. But it's gone “way beyond” his original hopes, with the wall going strong after 25 years.

“I'm sure it will go way beyond me,” Devitt added.

In that time it's visited close to 1,200 communities in every state in the union, as well as Guam, Saipan and Puerto Rico. Groups in Europe also have expressed interest in the past in hosting it.

There currently are two moving walls traveling the country between April and November. During the winter, Devitt and his volunteers make repairs and replace panels when necessary.

Devitt said they currently have 400 applications on file from communities wanting to host the walls. The waiting list can be as long as three years. In Lake County's case, VVA Chapter 951 applied in the fall of 2006 and received the OK two years later. This was its first stop in Lake County, as Lake County News has reported.

Devitt said the reaction in the communities he visits is positive. “You see the whole emotional gamut play out,” he said.

Like Grothe, VVA member Ed Moore, who volunteered to work on the wall project, has a brother on the wall. William Moore was a lance corporal in the Marine Corps when he became Lake County's first casualty in the war on Dec. 16, 1965. He was just 20 when he died in Quang Tin, South Vietnam

William Moore and Lewis Grothe were friends, said Ed Moore.

Ed Moore said he hasn't seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, but has an etching of his brother's name brought to him by friends who did visit the memorial.

That made the chance to see The Moving Wall just that more important. Moore said he believed the moving memorial had just as powerful an emotional impact.

He called The Moving Wall's visit to Lake County “wonderful.”

“Lake County can be proud of itself,” he said.

It's been 44 years since his brother died, and it's still difficult to deal with the loss, said Moore.

“I'm so very proud of him,” he said of his brother, adding that he's proud of everyone whose name is on the wall.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




Art Grothe spoke about service and the importance of supporting members of the military at the losing ceremony for The Moving Wall on Monday, June 15, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Bagpiper Peter Kapp of Boonville walked the length of The Moving Wall and played

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