FITCHBURG - With a state police helicopter overhead and led by police cruisers and about 300 motorcycles, including 15 from several police departments, The Wall That Heals was escorted Wednesday from Worcester to Fitchburg, where it will be on display through Sunday.
The wall, which was set up Wednesday at Crocker Field in Fitchburg is a 75 percent scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and affiliated with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Callie Wright, site manager for The Wall That Heals, said the wall is associated with both the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the founding of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982.
When the wall arrived in Fitchburg, it was set up by volunteers, including firefighters and Fitchburg High School athletes. It will be open 24 hours a day through the weekend for people to visit and view the names of those killed in Vietnam. An educational display that accompanies the exhibit includes some of the hundreds of thousands of items left by visitors to the Washington, D.C., memorial.
The tractor-trailer carrying the wall was escorted along Route 12 to Fitchburg by police from Fitchburg, Worcester and many other communities, as well as motorcycle riders from veterans affiliated motorcycle clubs. There was also a large contingent of Jeep riders who joined along the way.
One of the motorcyclists, Joe Falco of Templeton, said he feels it is important to bring the memorial to communities outside Washington, D.C., as a reminder of those who died in the war. He is am Army veteran who served with the air calvary in 1970-71. He said he first saw the wall years ago in Washington, D.C.
"It hit pretty hard," he said.
Mr. Falco said it took him awhile to talk to his family about Vietnam, but has worked to make sure his three daughters understand what the war was all about and he believes they can come to understand what he experienced.
"My girls tell me I am their hero," he said.
Mr. Falco said he has seen other versions of the wall traveling the country and was looking forward to seeing The Wall That Heals.
Those visiting the wall may look up names through a listing that indicates which of the 144 panels the name is on and on what line it can be found. There are more than 1,330 Massachusetts residents included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, many from Central Massachusetts. A few of those include Army Maj. Frederick G. Terry, a helicopter pilot who was killed in 1968. During the war he was awarded the Silver Star, and four awards each of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star. His name is on panel W53, line 14.
Col. Edward J. Cavanaugh of Worcester died the night before he was due to return home during a rocket attack. He was awarded Silver Stars in both Korea and Vietnam and Cavanaugh Square in Worcester was named in his honor. His name is on panel 3W, line 117.
There is also Army Spec. 4 Paul G. Bellino, who was killed during the battle for Ap Bia Mountain, the so-called "Hamburger Hill." He received a Bronze Star for gallantry during the battle, which was the subject of the 1987 movie "Hamburger Hill."
Also found on the memorial is Webster native Sgt. John A. Jablonski who was awarded the Army's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross for valor during a desperate battle Aug. 8, 1968. Jablonski Square on Park Avenue in Webster is named in his honor. His name is on panel 49W, line 31.
The Wall That Heals is open 24 hours per day through 3 p.m. Sunday.