EDEN, N.Y. — Hundreds attended Thursday's opening ceremony for a traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial on display in Eden.
There are several traveling replica Vietnam Memorials, but this is the largest at 360 feet long. It's four-fifths the size of the original monument in Washington D.C., and like The Wall, bears the name of every U-S servicemenber killed in the Vietnam War.
American Legion Post 880 in Eden raised $6,000 to bring the replica to Western New York.
Paul Lawton, the event chairman, says many people don't have the opportunity to travel to see the memorial in Washington, and bringing the wall here may give them closure.
"It's a gathering of individuals so that they can talk, remember. I think talking about it gives them a lot of relief," Lawton said.
The wall will be available for viewing 24 hours a day.
Organizers expect thousands of people to visit the wall, which be on display through Sunday afternoon.
It took almost a year of fundraising and the work of 14 committees to bring the American Veterans Traveling Tribute to Eden.
A motorcade escorted a replica of the Vietnam Memorial from Irving to Eden on Wednesday with almost a thousand motorcycles and lots of people cheering along the way.
"When I came home, it's something we didn’t want to wear our uniforms. It was wonderful to see all the people out today supporting us along the side of the roads and in the communities, I mean, there were thousands of people out there," said Patriot Guard rider Walt Weirich.
"We had to get all the waivers and get everybody lined up and get the police escort coordinated so there's a lot of work involved in one of these, but it's well worth it," said Bob Youngs of the Orchard Park Legion 567.
The wall is four-fifths the size of the original monument in Washington D.C. Some landscaping work had to be done to accommodate the 360-foot-long wall.
"We didn’t have enough room for it at the time so we cut down 30 foot of woods and we put in a new field so that it would fit on it and look nice," said grounds chairman Kenneth Franz.
American Legion Post 880 in Eden had to raise $6,000 to bring the replica to Western New York. Paul Lawton says he wanted to help especially because of his own connection to the war.
"Back in the 60s, I owned a gas station. I employed the only boy from North Collins that was killed over there so that's why I really got involved in it, to have a little closure with him," said Lawton, event chairman.
The wall will be available for viewing 24 hours a day to accommodate all visitors. One organizer says some people like to visit at night because the experience can be overwhelming.
"There will be people here to provide help to them. Grievance counselors, locator. A locator table where if they want to find someone on the wall real quick," said American Legion Post 880 Commander Jim Blidy.
"I have a great strong feeling for all the veterans who served in that Vietnam War and those that lost their lives. I lost friends there," said Weirich.
The opening ceremony and set up of the wall begins Thursday. Organizers anticipate 30,000 to 40,000 people will visit the wall through Sunday.