A local American Legion post is celebrating 100 years of service with a stirring public tribute to veterans. The Rabe O. Wilkison American Legion Post 38 and the Colonial Charitable Foundation are teaming to arrange an exhibit of The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall at jetBlue Park on Saturday, Sept. 7 and Sunday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each day.
The wall, a three-fifths scale replica of the national memorial in Washington, will arrive in Fort Myers on Thursday, Sept. 5, 100 years to the day after Post 38 was formed. Representatives from the post and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office will meet the wall in front of the Winn-Dixie on 14600 Palm Beach Blvd. at 8 a.m. and escort it on the final leg of its journey to the park.
“We wanted to make our 100th anniversary about the enduring connection between the freedoms we enjoy and the price so many have paid to secure them,” Post 38 Cmdr. Kevin Boyd said. “We are so grateful to everyone who is helping us put this together for our heroes.”
The mobile exhibit features more than 58,000 names of U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice during the war. The public is invited not merely to view the wall but to touch it, take a piece of paper, place it on a name and rub a wax crayon or graphite pencil over it to create a memento of someone whose memory lives on.
“It’s important to make the experience as vibrant and dynamic as possible so that newer generations of Americans gain an understanding of what these brave men and women gave to their country,” Boyd said. “This really drives it all home.”
Near the exhibit will be an area for solemn reflection, and a Hughes Helicopter 0H-6A model on display. The Army used the 0H-6A helicopters to fly some of the most dangerous missions in Vietnam, and only a third of the original fleet of 1,200 remained by the end of the war.
Opening and closing ceremonies are scheduled for both days, including the National Anthem and a 21-gun salute. Concession stands will be open and beer will be available for sale. All proceeds from the event will go toward programs for veterans.
Sponsors include Rocket Mortgage, Bank of America, Centennial Bank, Conditioned Air, Crowther Roofing, CVS Health, the Fort Myers Memorial Garden, the Fort Myers Police Athletic League, Galeana, the Heritage Palms Veterans Association, Heroes on the Water – Southwest Florida, LadyCakes Bakery, Morgan Stanley, The News-Press Media Group, Norman Love Confections, St. John XXIII Catholic Church, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, Storm Smart, Surterra Wellness, Tag a Pet for a Vet and Veterans United Home Loans.