By Jeff Mullin, Senior Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Emotions figure to be running high during the dedication ceremony for the Vietnam Memorial Wall, beginning at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at Enid Woodring Regional Airport.
“There are going to be a lot of wet eyes on the 11th of November,” said Bob Farrell, co-chairman of the committee that raised the money to purchase and install the wall. “Specifically, after the dedication takes place and there’s a solemn time for folks to go up to that wall and put their hands on it.”
The 80-percent replica of the wall in Washington, D.C., is made of anodized aluminum and contains the names of 58,286 Americans who lost their lives during the Vietnam War, including several from Enid.
“If there’s a Vietnam veteran out there that doesn’t come to the dedication, shame on them,” said Farrell, “because there’s a lot of work and a lot of class that has been put into this memorial for you, and for your families, and for those who have fallen. You need to make every effort to come out for the dedication.”
Between 3,000 and 5,000 people are expected to attend the dedication ceremony. Elaine Johns, executive director of Woodring Wall of Honor, said she expects the crowd to be on the high end of that estimate.
“There will be a large contingency of Vietnam-era veterans,” she said. “We are starting to see a lot of calls in terms of hotel availability for the entire weekend, which is what we had hoped would happen.”
Parking figures to be at a premium at the ceremony, so those planning to attend are urged to arrive early. The airport’s main gate will be closed for the ceremony. The east entrance, off 66th Street, will be for general parking while the west, off Piper Road, will be for handicapped, distinguished visitors, special guests and motorcycles.
The ceremony will be emceed by Ashton Edwards, reporter from KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, and will include a 21-gun salute by the Silver Talon Honor Guard from Vance Air Force Base, a flyover of Vietnam-era aircraft, a performance by Enid High School’s honor choir and a performance by Grammy and Emmy nominated trumpeter David Hooten.
The wall will be dedicated by Farrell and Dan Ohnesorge, co-chairman of the fundraising committee that helped bring the retired traveling wall to Enid. Both are veterans who served in the Air Force, and both spent time at Vance.
The keynote speech will be delivered by retired Air Force Col. Lee Ellis, a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War who was shot down and held prisoner for five and a half years in the notorious, “Hanoi Hilton” prison, where he was held captive with Sen. John McCain and others.
A group of Blue Star Mothers will be on hand following the ceremony with computers to help visitors search for a name on the memorial wall. Those seeking names also can visit www.thewall usa.com/.
The dedication ceremony will culminate a full weekend of activities, beginning Nov. 9 with the 100-mile Ride to Remember, sponsored by the Moose Riders of Enid. The ride, open to both motorcycles and cars, will begin at 10 a.m. at the Woodring Wall of Honor and end at the Enid Moose Lodge, 302 E. Purdue.
The $25 registration fee includes a commemorative T-shirt, meal, dog tags containing the name of an Oklahoma Vietnam veteran and a certificate. Those interested are asked to pre-register online at getmeregistered.com.
The festivities continue Nov. 10 with the Legacy Award Ceremony, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center. Ellis will be the keynote speaker, and the event will include a swearing-in ceremony for new military recruits.
“We will pass the legacy on from the greatest generation to the new generation,” said Johns.
The winners of the Woodring Wall of Honor youth patriotic poster and essay contests also will be announced.
The cost is $30 to attend the entire event, including dinner, and $15 to attend the program alone, which will begin at 7:30.
“This will be a tribute to Vietnam veterans of Oklahoma for many, many years,” said Johns. “This will become a destination area for many people not able to travel to Washington.”
For more information about the event, call Visit Enid at 233-3643 or go to www.visitenid.org or woodring wallofhonor.com.