Moving Wall in Aurora comes to a moving end
Herschel Luckinbill lingered next to The Moving Wall, looking down at a photo of two young faces.
It was a picture from long ago of two friends and comrades. It was a picture of two young men frozen in time, two young men who never got the chance to grow old.
"These are my shipmates," Luckinbill said. "They're the reason this wall is here."
Thomas Tiglas and Antone Perry, who served in the Navy with Luckinbill in Vietnam, were killed in the Gulf of Tonken Dec. 23, 1966 when a single shell blew a hole in their ship.
Tiglas and Perry were among the names listed on The Moving Wall, a three-fifths replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that was on display behind West Aurora High School from Nov. 7 through Monday, Veterans Day.
The wall includes the names of all of the members of the American armed forces who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.
Monday's final day was highlighted by a wreath-laying ceremony remembering the fallen, men like Tiglas and Perry.
"It means a lot to me for the wall being here, just to get to honor them," said Luckinbill, chairman of The Moving Wall Committee in Aurora. "It's been a lot of years. I feel like I'm spending time with them."
A light snowfall did not stop a large gathering, young and old alike.
As a call to order was made for each branch of service, a veteran carried a wreath from its place by a stage several hundred feet to its position by The Moving Wall. There, all branches stood together as one.
Russell Gann, an Army Vietnam veteran from Downers Grove, remained at The Moving Wall several minutes after the ceremony.
"First time I was at the (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) in D.C., I don't cry much but just the thought of it brought me to tears," Gann said. "It's extremely moving."
Also on display was the Illinois Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial, a model of the World War II memorial and Aurora's Healing Field of Honor, which featured 2,013 flags.
Luckinbill, speaking onstage before the wreath ceremony, called it "one of the greatest weeks of my life."
At the wreath ceremony seven veterans were presented with quilts from Karon Carlson of Quilts of Valor Foundation, an organization whose mission is to cover all combat service veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts.
"We hope they warm and comfort you," Carlson said, "and serve as a constant reminder of our gratitude."
Gann was moved by the long stream of schoolchildren walking past The Moving Wall, watching and learning.
"It's not an old person thing, it's not just veterans who are in their 60s and 70s who are here," Gann said. "It's the younger people who are here learning a little bit about themselves. I think something like this contributes to a life lesson. I think this can only help their patriotism."
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