Wall memorial draws crowd

PARKERSBURG – The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall continued to receive a steady stream of visitors Friday on its first full day on display, including a number of school groups.

“Things have been going great,” Wall manager Greg Welsh said Friday afternoon. “We had a good crew of volunteers to put the wall up Wednesday and a phenomenal crowd (Thursday) night for the opening ceremony,” he said.

The Wall contains the names of more than 58,000 service members lost between 1959-1974 during the Vietnam War. It is a three-fifths scale model of the memorial in Washington, D.C.

“The attendance has been up since last time,” Welsh said looking back at the 2011 visit of the Wall to Parkersburg. “I would imagine that in the last couple of days we’ve been here, we’re at well over 3,000 people and it’s climbing. We’ve had a number of school kids come through… It’s been great,” he said.

This is Welsh’s second visit to Parkersburg with the Wall and he is pleased with the reception it has received both times, from officials and from the community.

“It’s a great venue and they do a great job setting everything up for the Wall. The volunteers are excellent and the people appreciate it being here,” Welsh said.

“I just wanted to come out and look at the Wall,” said Parkersburg resident Gary Ruff, who was among Friday’s visitors to City Park to view the exhibit.

“I’m a vet, too, so I came out to look things over,” Ruff said, adding his time of service was prior to the Vietnam era.

He was glad to see the Wall stopping in Parkersburg for a second time, especially since it gave those who might have missed the chance to see it in 2011 another opportunity to visit the display.

Margaret Kuta of Athens, Ga., was visiting someone in Parkersburg when she decided to take advantage of the Wall’s arrival at City Park to visit it for the first time.

“I had never seen the Wall and I have a cousin that got killed in Vietnam so I wanted to come and see if I could locate his name,” she said, adding she was successful in finding the name and made a rubbing of it.

“It’s a wonderful idea because not everyone can get to Washington, D.C., to see it,” she said of the traveling memorial. “I live in Georgia and that’s a long way to come. I’m here (in Parkersburg) visiting, so it just makes it nice. I’m really glad and I’m sure there are veterans here who have never had the chance to go,” she said.

Mike O’Dell of Vienna was volunteering Friday in one of the two locator tents which help visitors find specific names on the Wall. He also volunteered during the 2011 visit, doing the same work. He saw a lot of people come through during that time.

“I like doing it, I’m a Vietnam veteran so I guess that’s the reason I do it,” O’Dell said of his involvement.

On Friday, O’Dell said there had been a lot of people stopping by to visit the Wall and among them, there has been a lot of interest from people looking for names. The volunteers in the locator tents are working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but there are other volunteers at the Wall around the clock who can help people who want to come at any time.

O’Dell was pleased with the turnout of visitors.

“What’s been great is seeing the schoolchildren,” he said, pointing to a school group looking at sections of the Wall. “It does my heart good.”