Traveling Vietnam Wall returning to Topeka

Wall will be at National Guard museum Aug. 28-31
Ed Gerhardt, president of the Museum of the Kansas National Guard's board of directors, stands near the Vietnam War display at the museum, 6700 S.W. Topeka Blvd. Gerhardt and other board directors have been working since January to bring the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Wall back to Topeka. The traveling wall will be at the museum from noon Aug. 28 through 3 p.m. Aug. 31.

After a 17-year absence, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Wall is returning to Topeka in late August.


The traveling wall, which is 360 feet long and 8 feet tall at its apex, is an 80 percent scale version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and contains the 58,286 names of those who died in the war that are etched on the wall in the nation’s capital.

Ed Gerhardt, president of the Museum of the Kansas National Guard’s board of directors, said the traveling wall will be available for viewing round-the-clock from noon Aug. 28 through 3 p.m. Aug. 31 at the museum, 6700 S.W. Topeka Blvd.

“The mission (of the traveling wall) is to honor, respect and remember the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and to pay specific tribute to those who gave all in that service,” Gerhardt said.

The Kansas National Guard museum board members decided at their January meeting to bring the AVTT Vietnam Wall back to Topeka.

“The last time, it was at the VA (hospital), and 50,000 to 60,000 people came to it,” he said.

The board originally set a goal of raising $12,000 for the project, which included the $8,650 fee paid to AVTT to transport the wall, informational panels and other materials to Topeka. Later, Gerhardt said, the goal was upped to $15,000 after realizing they would need to pay for publicity, tent rental, motel rooms for AVTT workers, nighttime security and other costs.

“But we have already met the goal,” he said.

Major contributors have included American Legion Post 421, $3,000; Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, $2,500; 190th Air Refueling Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, $1,300; and Capitol Federal Foundation, $1,000. Gerhardt said dozens of smaller donations also helped the board reach its goal.

A number of volunteers have signed up to help set up and take down the wall, serve as color guards, provide security or perform other tasks.

“Every veteran group in town has been a part of the planning committee,” he said.

Ceremonies are planned for each day of the wall’s visit. So far, the schedule includes:

Aug. 28

■ Opening ceremony at noon, featuring a blessing of the wall by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation; speaker Tad Pritchett, a U.S. Marine who served as a platoon leader in the Vietnam War; and the laying of POW/MIA and Gold Star Mother’s wreaths.

■ Evening ceremony at 7 p.m., featuring the Santa Fe Band and speaker Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, Kansas adjutant general.

Aug. 29

■ Reveille ceremony at 8 a.m.

■ Evening ceremony at 7 p.m., featuring live music and speaker John Musgrave, a Marine who was severely wounded while serving in Vietnam and writes poetry about his war experiences.

Aug. 30

■ Pancake feed from 7 to 10 a.m. in the museum conference room.

■ Reveille ceremony at 8 a.m.

■ Vietnam veterans panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. in the museum conference room.

■ Reading of names of Kansans who were killed in action in Vietnam at 5 p.m.

■ Evening ceremony at 7 p.m., featuring the Kansas City Bettys USO Girls and speaker Roger Locher, a retired Air Force pilot who was shot down in Vietnam.

Aug. 31

■ Reveille and field chapel service, 7 a.m.

■ Ride to the Wall from Topeka Harley-Davidson at 11 a.m., meeting at the Vietnam Wall at 12:15 p.m.

■ Closing ceremony at 2:30 p.m., featuring Gerhardt as the speaker.

Gerhardt said viewing the Vietnam Wall can be emotional for some people, so chaplains and others will be at the site to provide counseling if needed. Organizers also are asking people to mute their cellphones as they approach the wall.

After leaving Topeka, the Vietnam Wall will travel to El Dorado, where it can be seen from Sept. 3 through 7 at American Legion Post 81.

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More than 2.6 million

The number of American military personnel serving in Vietnam from August 1964 to May 1975


Number of American military personnel who died in Vietnam

More than 303,000

The number of American troops wounded in Vietnam


Number of American troops severely disabled by service


Percent of those killed who were 21 years or younger





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