"Brushed aside," no more, Aurora veterans say this week's arrival of The Moving Wall will be a happy day of remembrance throughout the city.
The Moving Wall, a three-fifths-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will rise Thursday morning in the practice soccer fields at West Aurora High School and remain in place through Veterans Day. Also on display will be the Illinois Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial, a model of the World War II memorial and Aurora's Healing Field of Honor.
Schedule of Moving Wall activities8 a.m. Thursday: Moving Wall arrives at Aurora West High School escorted by multiple motorcycle groups.
1 p.m. Thursday: Public viewing of the Moving Wall begins
10:30 a.m. Friday: Opening ceremony at the Moving Wall
6 p.m. Friday: A public veterans assembly in the West Aurora High School auditorium featuring keynote speakers Gen. Max Baratz (WA '52) and Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Lee Davis
7:15 p.m. Friday: A flag retirement ceremony at the Wall
2 p.m. Saturday: Recognition of Gold Star Families who lost loved ones in war
6 p.m. to midnight Saturday: A night out for veterans at Ballydoyle to benefit Honor Flight Chicago, a group that flies World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II memorial
10 a.m. Sunday: A nondenominational healing service at the Moving Wall
2 p.m. Monday: A wreath-laying ceremony for all branches of the military
Dusk Monday: A candlelight vigil at the closing ceremony for the Moving Wall
William Anello served one tour in Vietnam, from 1968 to 1969 with the Army, but didn't talk about his participation in the war for more than 10 years. Seeing the wall in Bloomingdale several years ago, he said, provided the healing and closure he needed.
"So many of us were brushed aside when we came home and that caused us to never talk about it," Anello said. "As sobering as the wall is, this is a happy day for those of us who are brushed aside no more and allows us and the entire nation to pay our respects."
He'll be visiting the wall during it's stay in Aurora.
"I have some friends on that wall and I'll go see them to pay the proper respects, but it's hard," he said. "One day I was with them but they never came home."
Veteran Robert McIlvaine, of North Aurora, served two tours in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971. He has not been to see the monument in Washington, D.C., but he did visit the Moving Wall in 2007 when it came to Sycamore.
"As a veteran, I get goose bumps just talking about it because it's such a moving experience, not only for the veterans but for the American public," McIlvaine said. "That monument has done more to heal this nation than any other single monument ever put up. When you stand in front of that wall and you see those names, the power behind it is so moving that it goes beyond words."
Doug White served several tours with the Navy from 1968 to 1974. He's seen the actual monument and the moving wall on several occasions and the emotion does not wear off.
"Every time I see it, I get tears in my eyes because I'm taken back by the sheer numbers of men and women killed during that war," White said. "I think it's something everyone should go and take a look at to appreciate how many gave their lives for us."
More than 300,000 people are expected to visit the Wall during the four days it is on display. Hundreds of volunteers also will be on hand to assist visitors and participate in the solemn 71-hour ceremony in which each of the 58,282 names on the wall are read.
McIlvaine has volunteered to read names on Thursday, Saturday and Monday.
"I would tell you it will be an honor for me to read those names aloud but I don't know that that says enough," he said. "I am beyond words when it comes to the sacrifices of these young men."
Herschel Luckinbill, veteran and chairman of The Moving Wall Committee in Aurora, said he "almost fell straight out of (my) chair" in January when he learned Aurora was selected as one of the 21 cities to host the wall this year.
He was disappointed when his request to have the wall in August was denied, but overjoyed when that meant Aurora would have the wall on Veterans Day.
"It means everything to me to bring the wall here and honor all 58,282 of those young men," said Luckinbill, who lost two shipmates on the same day in 1969. "Paying respect to my shipmates is worth bringing the wall here, so we're going to do it right."