THOMASTON, Maine — Greg Grotton arrived Thursday morning with more than 200 veterans on motorcycles as escorts of The Moving Wall, the traveling half-size replica of the monument in Washington, D.C., that memorializes the more than 58,000 Americans who died during the Vietnam War.
But Grotton said he was not sure he could stay to see the wall erected or read any of the etched names, which would include those of fellow soldiers he was close to as they served together in Vietnam.
“This is the first time I’ve been at the wall. I’m still not sure if I can see it,” Grotton said. “This is quite emotional.”
The former manager of the Knox County Regional Airport said he served in the Army and flew helicopter gunships in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
Grotton said he was impressed with the turnout for the arrival of the wall, which will be on display on the grounds of the Knox Museum on High Street in Thomaston through Memorial Day weekend.
“I think everyone has called in sick today,” Grotton said.
Timothy Curran, a Marine Corps veteran from Woolwich who also served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, said he has not been willing to see the wall until now.
“I think now I can emotionally take it,” said Curran.
He said friends who trained together died on missions and he would be looking for their names.
Wayne Thibodeau of Brunswick saw the permanent wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1980 but wanted to be here for the arrival of the Moving Wall. He served three years in Vietnam and lost close friends, including three students who had attended high school in Brunswick with him — Earl Garrison, Ronald Fitch and Jimmy LeValle.
“This means a lot to me,” Thibodeau said.
The wall was being erected panel by panel on Thursday morning.
The Knox Museum was selected to host the Vietnam Combat Veterans’ wall for five days. The half-scale replica of Maya Lin’s original design will be exhibited on the grounds of Montpelier from May 26 to 30.
Admission is free and visiting hours will be 24 hours per day, except during special ceremonies. The museum estimates 13,000 people will visit the memorial.
The Moving Wall has been touring the country for more than 30 years, offering thousands who would never have the chance to get to Washington the opportunity to witness this American monument.
The Moving Wall, which stands 252 feet long and 6 feet tall, displays the names of 58,228 Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam, including 13 from Knox County, eight from Lincoln County, six from Waldo County and four from Sagadahoc County. In total, there are 343 Maine names inscribed on the memorial.
Bringing The Moving Wall to Montpelier is a massive undertaking, requiring regrading of the museum property, construction of a platform on which to mount the wall, installation of two stages with special lighting and sound equipment, multiple tents, handicapped walkways and access, remote parking, shuttle service, 24-hour security, grief counselors, sanitary facilities, meals for volunteers, name-rubbing materials and other educational materials for schoolchildren.
On Saturday, during the museum’s fifth annual Boots on the Ground signature event, Vincent Gabriel, well-known local Vietnam veteran and front man for the band Blind Albert, will perform.
Onsite parking will be limited to speakers and handicapped access only.
Guests can be dropped off at the property in front of Montpelier or can park at the American Legion lot behind the business block in Thomaston; in the rear parking lot at Flagship Cinemas, also in Thomaston; and ride the shuttle buses leaving approximately every 15 minutes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
For information, visit knoxmuseum.org, The Moving Wall To Maine page on Facebook, call Knox Museum at 354-8062 or email email@example.com.