ASHLAND — Tim Chandler has service in his blood.
His father and uncles served in World War II. He knew he wanted to serve in the military by age eight. A veteran of the Afghanistan War himself, Chandler played a key role in bringing the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall to Ashland.
A friend on the Ashland County Veterans Appreciation Committee asked Chandler to use his contacts to bring in the wall, he said. So, he jumped on Google and found four different traveling walls. After contacting them all, Chandler said one was booked until 2024, one cost too much and another wanted the committee to build platforms to set the wall on.
But the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Wall, out of Bullard, Texas, came with a reasonable price. The committee booked it, and the wall arrived in Ashland on the evening of Aug. 2. A procession brought the wall into town. Community members greeted it, along with the Ashland City Schools’ band and the Ashland High School football team.
The Ashland High School football team lent a hand putting it together Thursday morning.
The wall is an 80% replica of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C. It’s the full 360 feet of the D.C. memorial, and stands eight feet tall. Every name on the D.C. wall is also on the traveling one.
The wall also comes with a number of exhibits sharing about other conflicts and topics like post traumatic stress disorder.
At a ceremony Thursday night, the wall opened for Ashland’s veterans and community members. The opening ceremony kicked off Ashland’s 10th annual Veterans Appreciation Day.
“These names mean a lot,” Chandler said. “I have a neighbor’s name on there. I grew up during the Vietnam War and it’s part of my history.”
The Thursday night ceremony featured a presentation of the colors, a lineup of speakers including Ohio’s attorney general and Ashland’s mayor, and an acknowledgement of Ashland County veterans.
A group of veterans representing those who served in conflict from World War II through the Afghanistan War sat in front of the crowd and received medals as part of the ceremony.
“Ladies and gentlemen, without question, one of the best things about living in our great county is we are a patriotic people,” said Ashland mayor Matt Miller. “When it comes to showing our love for our country, our love for our freedom and our love for the men and women who fought to secure this freedom, we will always be there.”
Miller read a resolution thanking the Veterans Day Committee for their work over the last decade and for bringing the Wall to Ashland.
Ohio’s attorney general Dave Yost also spoke at the wall’s opening. Yost said he came to acknowledge a debt that he cannot repay: veterans laying down their lives for our freedoms.
He said he remembered when the Vietnam Wall memorial was built, and that it was different than typical war memorials. He said it was controversial at the time because rather than honoring generals and leaders, it honored everybody.
“People felt it was somehow less of a memorial than had been erected in previous times,” Yost said. “But I love this memorial because everybody’s on it — not just the generals, not just the people whose name went down in history, not just the people who were famous. Everybody that gave their life is on this wall.”
Greg Gorrell, an Ashland High School class of 1963 grad and Vietnam war veteran who served in the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said men in his platoon didn’t come home from the war.
He hopes the community comes to see the wall and talk with veterans who served.
“The wall is a chance to remember and honor people who made the ultimate sacrifice, which is something we didn’t get when we came home,” Gorrell said.
He said the wall is a way to personalize the men and women who served their country in that era. In Gorrell’s view, the problems people had with the Vietnam War should have been put onto the government, not onto the veterans that served in the war.
As a way to honor the men he served with, Gorrell wrote personal tributes and left them by the panels with his fellow veterans’ names.
“I hope the takeaway is that over 58,000 names on the wall answered the call and served their country,” Gorrell said.
Pam Mowry came up with the idea for Ashland’s annual Veterans Appreciation Day celebration 10 years ago. She views the wall as a reminder of how costly freedom is. She wants people to know that service is life altering. It’s something she understands on a personal level: many of her family members are veterans.
She said she feels blessed to live in America. She views appreciation of veterans as something that should bring people together from all sides of the political spectrum.
“It is about love of country and love of personal freedom,” Mowry said.
The Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall will be open at the Ashland County Airport until 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Ashland’s 10th annual Veterans Appreciation Day event takes place Aug. 5. Below is a schedule of events:
- 11 a.m. – Opening Ceremony
- 12-12:15 p.m. – Complimentary Cookout
- 1-1:45 p.m. – Ken Hammontree
- 2 p.m. – The Rat Pack
- 4 p.m. – The Stan Davis Quintet
- 7-9:15 p.m. – The Bottom Line Band
- 9:15 p.m. – Fireworks
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