June 3, 2011
By Chris Agee |email@example.com
The only permanent Vietnam Memorial Wall outside of Washington, D.C., located at the National Vietnam War Museum on U.S. Highway 180 just east of Mineral Wells, will be updated for the second time Saturday with the names of three Marines and three Army soldiers added.
“We’ve already had the panels changed to reflect the new names,” said Jim Vines, commander of AmVets Post 133 in Mineral Wells.
The names will be unveiled at the ceremony, which is open to the public at no cost and begins at 10:30 a.m.
Vines said museum officials are required to wait one year after names are added to the original wall before the same names can be added to the local wall, meaning the people honored at Saturday’s event have been displayed in the nation’s capital since 2010.
Five more names added to the original wall this year will be etched into the replica wall next year, Messinger said.
The local wall, approximately half the size of the original, was unveiled May 30, 2009, and originally contained 70 panels and 58,260 names.
Vines said in addition to the unveiling of the names, he is excited to welcome guests from Operation Babylift to the celebration.
According to NVWM Treasurer Jim Messinger, Operation Babylift was established near the end of the Vietnam War to rescue scores of children left orphaned after years of battle in the country.
In total, the operation resulted in about 4,000 children being flown to safety, primarily to America but also to Canada and various European countries. Messinger said all of the rescued children were assigned homes and adoptive parents before landing in their new location.
Unfortunately, Messinger said, the second plane leaving South Vietnam crashed, killing 130 of the 300 on board.
In addition to the negative press assigned to the operation following the crash, Messinger said controversy arose at the time concerning whether some children were taken against their parent’s wishes. In the long run, however, the operation has largely been viewed as a great success.
Three speakers from Operation Babylift will be the first to address the crowd Saturday, according to Messinger, and eight other speakers will take part in an afternoon exhibit at the museum’s visitor’s center.
The guest list includes, in addition to now-grown rescued orphans and family members of those lost in the rescue plane crash, many speakers who were instrumental in making the operation successful.
Air Force veterans responsible for flying the rescue missions, Tammy Nguyen Lee, the producer and director of a feature film about the operation, Olen Bautwell, a crash survivor, and his wife, Louise, a Clark Air Force Base Babylift coordinator are all scheduled to speak.
Additionally, Vietnam veteran and artist Doc Bernie Duff will unveil an Operation Babylift painting which he will donate to the museum and Thuy Smith, the international president of the Amerasian Foundation will be on hand to address the crowd, expected to number between 500 and 1,000 people.
Operation Babylift’s presentation will be moderated by Lana Noone, author of the book “Global Mom,” which recounts her family’s experience adopting multiple orphans through the operation.
Another big draw for the event is an appearance by Elvis Presley tribute artist Kraig Parker before he goes on to perform that night at a concert in the Mineral Wells High School auditorium.
Parker will sing “America the Beautiful,” Vines said, adding both Presley and Parker were very supportive of veterans.
Presley himself served in the military, stationed at Fort Hood before his deployment to Germany, and, fittingly, another event scheduled for Saturday is an aerial display featuring helicopters from the same military post.
The event will be catered by Meals on Wheels, Messinger said, and the menu will feature pigs in a blanket.
Appearances by Patriot Guard Riders and a parachute jump by former U.S. Army Golden Knight and double-amputee Dana Bowman, of Weatherford, are also planned for the event.
Two attractions scheduled for Saturday’s ceremony have been cancelled due to conflicting schedules, according to Messinger.
The Liberty Bell will not make an appearance due to a military funeral scheduled for the same day and the bagpiper scheduled to perform during the invocation will be unable to attend.