Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Thousands honor veterans at Delavan Park

by Chris Schultz

June 21, 2012

DELAVAN — Anywhere from 3,000 or more visited Delavan Community Park in the town of Delavan to view the indoor traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial during the Celebration of Freedom, June 13 to 17.

The traveling Vietnam memorial is a half-scale reproduction of the actual monument in Washington, D.C., said John Dumesnil, representing American Veteran Traveling Tribute, Tyler, Texas, the veteran-owned company that owns and exhibits the wall.

Often just called The Wall, the memorial is simple, stark and powerful. On it are more than 58,000 names of American servicemen and women who died in Southeast Asia between 1956 and 1975.

Even at just half the size, and with “steles” of wood instead of marble, the indoor-sized display drew attention, with some just looking, others actively seeking, and few even weeping as they found names of friends or loved ones who fell overseas.

Volunteers did computer searches for visitors to find specific names on specific locations on the mini-memorial.

The traveling display also memorializes the sacrifices of those who fell in all of the nation’s major conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.

Displays also pay respects to police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty and commemorates the lives lost in the 9-11 disaster.

“This is our Cost of Freedom Tribute,” Dumesnil said.

During a brief “touching the wall” ceremony on Sunday, Gene Medley of Delavan, who served in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, scanned the names closely looking for one in particular. He and grandson Nick Ward searched until Medley found that of his close friend, Michael V. Timmons.

Overcome, Medley embraced his grandson and wept. He said there are four other names on The Wall that he knew.

Mary Hayden, also of Delavan, sought three classmates from the Delavan-Darien High School class of 1968.

Hayden said she had some poignant memories of her fellow classmates who answered the call to war.

“One boy said, ‘I’m going there and I’m not coming back,’” Hayden said. “He was there three days and he didn’t come back.”

Nancy Hoppa of Delavan was looking up the name of her brother, Thomas Charles Guden, a Marine who fell on June 25, 1967. She and a friend, Pat Fiegel of Darien, found his name there.

But not everyone was there to remember loss. Pascal Patilliet and daughter Elena were looking over the names of those who have died in the global War on Terror.

French by birth, Patilliet served in the French navy. He married an American woman from Beloit and is now an American.

“I brought my daughter here to teach her some history,” he said. These sacrifices, he said, gained America its freedoms.

Peter Palenske of San Antonio, Texas, grew up in Delavan. He and his wife, Laura, were back at his childhood hometown for a relative’s wedding anniversary. A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Palenske said he’s seen The Wall in Washington, D.C.

“The one in D.C. is pretty intense,” he said. “These are all your brothers and sisters,” he added, pointing to The Wall.

Jerry Rowland, past commander of Delavan American Legion Post 95, said the exhibit was a great educational experience for the kids, and everyone who visited the four-day celebration.

He credited Steve and Patti Shoff and Delavan Town Supervisor Chris Marsicano with spearheading the work to organize the celebration.

Steve Shoff, said the park committee of the town of Delavan received a mailing in January from American Veteran Traveling Tribute. Deciding it might be a suitable tribute to veterans, the park board worked with the town board and Delavan city council to arrange the traveling monument’s visit.

Shoff said cooperation among the community governments and work by dozens of volunteers made the tribute possible.

Members of the Walworth Lakeland Elks Lodge 2201 were also actively involved, carrying out the Flag Day ceremony on Saturday, Shoff said. Public organizations that also lent their support included the Walworth County Visitors Bureau, Delavan Lions Club, The American Legion Auxiliary, Delavan-Darien Rotary, the Delavan Lake Improvement Association, the Sharon Chamber of Commerce, the Darien American Legion Post 450, Twin Lakes American Legion Post 544 and Cub Scout Pack 327.

Representing the military on Sunday was the 484th Army Band and the Wisconsin National Guard 1158th Transportation Co. of Beloit. Featured was the company’s Heavy Equipment Hauler, usually used to transport M1 Abrams tanks.

Representing history, Larry Splinter of Janesville was there with his display of World War II equipment and a working full-scale model of a 1942 Chevrolet Army truck.

Dumesnil said the exhibit is mobile enough to be packed into a 20-foot trailer.

He said the exhibits have been to each of the 48 contiguous states.