Tribute paid in Follansbee to those who died, went MIA during Vietnam War
FOLLANSBEE – Local teacher James McFadden noted West Virginia had the highest number of casualties among U.S. states – 711, or 39.9 deaths per 100,000 people, according to officials with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
And that number includes at least 16 Brooke County and Weirton residents whose names are among more than 58,000 displayed on the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the monument in Washington on display at the Follansbee Middle School football field from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. today and Sunday in conjunction with the Follansbee Community Days festival.
As key speaker for a service at the wall Friday, McFadden said whenever he has visited the monument in Washington, he has sought the name of Floyd Deal, a childhood friend who was one of 3,000 medical corpsmen who were killed while attempting to save others.
He said Deal’s younger brother struggled with his death and visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial helped him to come to terms with it. While there, Deal’s brother felt Floyd’s presence and fully understood he was not alone, that many others lost loved ones in the war, McFadden said.
Members of the Follansbee Community Days Committee and Follansbee Chamber of Commerce, who worked to bring the Moving Wall to Follansbee, hope it will help families and friends to pay tribute to lost loved ones and to make younger generations aware of their sacrifices.
Comprised of sturdy aluminum panels, the 252-foot long mobile wall was built through the efforts of John Devitt of California, a helicopter crew chief during the war, fellow Vietnam veterans and others. After attending the 1982 dedication of the monument in Washington, Devitt wanted to share his experience with those unable to travel to the nation’s capitol.
During the service McFadden called Vietnam veterans forward to be recognized, noting they often didn’t get “the handshake, hug or thank you” they’d hoped for when they returned from the war.
He told them, “Thank you, thank you, thank you – that will never be enough for your service.”
Local organizers of the Moving Wall’s visit have identified 16 Brooke County and Weirton men whose names appear on the two monuments: Thomas Brooks, Dennis Bucklew, Joseph Craft, Mark Cool, Harold Dawson, Robert Durbin, James Ennis, Joe Funk II, Paul Goggin, Harry Lauck, Robert Lazear, Robert Mossgrove, John Olenick, Joseph Perito, Paul Salerno and Raymond Salzarulo.
Jim Piccirillo, president of the Brooke County school board, noted there may be others as servicemen usually were identified by the military for the city where they enlisted instead of their hometowns.
Escorted by area emergency personnel, the Moving Wall was transported from Weirton to the football field Thursday morning by a truck with Vietnam Combat Veterans of White Pine, Mich., which has arranged for the wall to be transported to hundreds of public places throughout the U.S.
Councilman at large Domenick Micucci, an Army Vietnam War veteran, said seeing the wall and the deaths it memorializes brings “mixed emotions. But I think it’s great that people have a chance to see it state to state. This will be talked about here for a long time.”
Members of Follansbee American Legion Post 45, the Steubenville chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Support Group and Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Squad as well as other community members were on hand Thursday morning to assemble the Moving Wall under the direction of staff with Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd.
Bill Haught, commander of Follansbee American Legion Post 45, served during the war but wasn’t deployed to Vietnam.
“I knew a lot of guys that went. A couple on the wall – Joey Perito and Dennis Bucklew – were friends of mine. There are some others I went to school with,” he said.
Perito’s mother, Sandy, lay a wreath at the wall on behalf of all Gold Star Mothers, a group that includes mothers whose children died while serving in wars. Wreaths also were placed by Vietnam War veterans Hartzel Brady, John Cox, Mike Highfield, Stephen Jasko and Larry Lauffer.
Brady said among the many whose names appear on the wall is Ed Bovien of Mexico, Maine, whom he befriended in Vietnam. Bovien was killed in an ambush on Thanksgiving Day just five days before he was to return home, Brady said.
With a low, solemn voice, he commented, “What are you going to do? That’s the way it was.”
OVVMS Commander Doug Lilly brought several items for display at the site, including a framed photo of the The Three Soldiers, a monument near the Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington that consists of a bronze statue depicting three soldiers, one a white American, another a black American and another a Hispanic American.
Jack Ernest of Richmond, chaplain of the Vietnam Veterans Support Group, said, ” I think it’s a great thing for the community and an opportunity for people to see the wall, see the names and hopefully realize what a tremendous debt was paid for American freedom.”
Judy Colley of Wellsburg came Friday to see her cousin Robert Lazear’s name.
“I would never be able to get to Washington. This is such a blessing. When I heard this was coming, I knew I had to be there,” she said.
Greg Cheeks of Wellsburg, who served in Southeast Asia during the war, noted volunteers will be on hand to help visitors find the names of loved ones.
The Follansbee Community Days Committee and Follansbee Chamber of Commerce, led by Tom Ludewig and Nina Meca, raised about $5,000 to bring the wall to the city, build a platform for it, decorate it and provide security at night.
Chamber President Tony Paesano said among the many involved were local contractor Lombardi Development, which built the platform, and Ianetti’s Garden Center of Burgettstown, which donated flowers for the site.
Among the many involved in the service were the Tri-State Young Marines, Brent Kimball, who performed the national anthem and other patriotic music; Monsignor Paul Hudok; and Christian Assembly Pastor Joe Cuomo.