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Vietnam Memorial wall takes last tour

by: SUBMITTED - Visitors to the Dignity Memorial Wall make a rubbing of names.The Dignity Memorial Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., makes its last trip in Oregon this week when it gets a motorcade from Lincoln Memorial Park on Southeast Mount Scott Boulevard to Skyline Memorial Gardens north of the Sunset Highway in Beaverton.

It is going out in style with a motorcycle escort, accompanied by a group representing Oregon City’s No Soldier Left Behind.

“We will escort the wall with our ‘73 Chevy step van, donated by U.S. Air Force Vietnam vet Jim Porter, who passed this last February. Jim was a local veteran who lived in his step van until Agent Orange put him in the hospital, where he spent his final days. He decided to donate his step van to our charity, because of the great work we do in the community and at the veterans center,” said Rick Collier, the founder of No Soldier Left Behind.

Porter died four days after the organization picked up his truck.

Once the wall arrives at Skyline Memorial Gardens, a brief Purple Heart ceremony will be held, and Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Paul May will place the medal at the apex of the wall.

“The Purple Heart was donated by Illinois resident Ida Achas; the medal was given to her son, John Achas, whose name is on the wall,” said Crystal Mai Friedrich, funeral home manager at Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home.

The official opening ceremony will take place Friday at Skyline Memorial Gardens, and Beaverton resident Al Herrara, honored with a Silver Star for his service in Vietnam, will be the speaker. The Clan Macleay Pipe Band and Portland Police Highland Guard will also attend the event.

The wall will then be open to the public 24 hours a day, from 9 a.m. on Nov. 9, to 5 p.m. on Nov. 12, Friedrich said.

The Dignity Memorial Wall made its first trip to Lincoln Memorial Park in 2006, and has been in circulation for 20 years, visiting 250 cities.

The wall is being retired and will be put on display at the National Infantry Museum in Ft. Benning, Ga., she added.

Event planning

Friedrich worked with other managers at Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home and Skyline Memorial Gardens, along with veterans groups and all branches of the military, to plan the ceremonies, she said.

“It took a lot of people to make this happen, and there will be a lot of emotions and a lot of healing” at the ceremony, she said, adding that she feels honored to be a part of the preparations.

Friedrich hopes that people will come out for the ceremony, and visit the wall for the last time.

“I would hate for all this to go by, and people had no idea it was here,” Friedrich said.

No Soldier Left Behind

This event is extremely important to the members of No Soldier Left Behind and the community, because of how many men and woman sacrificed their lives for this country, Collier said.

He founded the organization in July 2010 because of the difficulties he encountered after his tour in the Iraq Invasion in 2003. His unit, the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance 1st Marine Division, was the first to invade Iraq, he noted.

“Vietnam veterans and their families have endured so much during the conflict, after the conflict and even still today. The suffering they did has paved the way for our generation returning today. I believe our country has shown great support because we made a huge mistake so many years ago when these veterans returned from war,” Collier said.

“I was welcomed home, because they were not. I have so much respect for these warriors and am truly thankful to have several of these great men in my life. I will do my very best to honor these warriors in every way I can, and being a part of this escort with ‘Jim’ riding along side us will be a day to remember.”




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