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Moving Wall unveiled in Akwesasne

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AKWESASNE - Several hundred people were in Akwesasne on Saturday night to pay homage to the nearly 59,000 people who died in the Vietnam War at the Moving Wall, a half-size traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

The event was hosted by the American Legion Post 1479 on state Route 37 in Akwesasne.

Throughout the evening, various individuals could be seen looking for their loved ones’ names on the wall. Some were groups or families who could be seen talking and sharing memories of those who died. Others were solemn, silen, and solitary.

“Today we will feel firsthand what a conflict feels like,” Chief Randy Hart said in his address, pointing out that the United States government considers the Vietnam War to be a conflict.

Chief Hart also touched upon what he experienced firsthand when a friend of his was killed in the war.

“We were scared, we were sad, and we cried. Our picture perfect world was disrupted, and we all knew where Vietnam was,” he said.

He later added that the soldier’s family “was never the same again.”

Five Akwesasne residents were killed in the war, all between t1966 and 1970: James Bigtree, William Tarbell, Charles Martin, Charles Rubado and Clifford Tarbell.

“They don’t get to wake up in the morning, hug their wife and hug their kid,” Post 1479 Commander Todd Conners said. “This is a small token of our appreciation; They gave it all for us.”

“Our council approved this unanimously,” Mohawk Council of Akwesasne District Chief Brian David said. “We didn’t discuss why; we just knew it was right.”

Chief David later added that it is not just to pay tribute to those who gave their lives, but also to “those who brought the burden back with them.”

The night opened with traditional Native American dancers and drummers. They played a homage song and a memorial song that is intended for warriors who died. Audience members were asked to remove their caps for the latter performance.

The ceremony also featured traditional military honors, including a 21-gun salute, a bugler playing Taps, a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace,” and color and honor guards.

Mr. Conners praised the efforts of his volunteer force of about 40 people. The volunteers included American and Canadian Legion, AmVets, Sons of American Legion and AmVets, women’s auxiliaries and locals.

“It was brilliant, everybody and everything’s been brilliant,” Mr. Conners said. “The volunteers have been great, and it’s good to see the community out.”

The Moving Wall was first constructed in October 1984 and displayed in Tyler, Texas, according to movingwall.net. There are now two replicas that travel the United States from April through November, according to the website. The website also contains a virtual memorial wall with names not on the original wall in Washington, D.C., including females who served and died, most of whom were medical personnel.

The memorial will remain in Akwesasne until today, when it is set to move on to Solon, Ohio.

agardner@mtelegram.com

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