PLYMOUTH – Speakers emphasized the solemnness of the occasion during Thursday’s opening ceremony for the four-day visit of American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam War Memorial at Plymouth’s River Park Square.
“‘Thank you for your service,’” Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter said. “‘Thank you for your service.’ As I stood near the wall this afternoon, that is what I heard over and over again. It was quiet and solemn but you could hear that whisper: ‘Thank you for your service.’”
The mayor noted that in the five years since River Park Square opened, it has served as a venue for Relay for Life, church services, the Mayor’s Month of Music and several festivals.
“But this week is different,” Senter said. “I am hoping that this weekend will be one of the greatest weekends the City of Plymouth has ever had. This will be so different. This will be somber and sacred and sincere. The Vietnam Wall brings that to a community.”
The mayor also asked the crowd to thank Mike Boys, the former owner of the Pilot News, who spearheaded efforts to bring the Vietnam Memorial to Marshall County. Boys did not speak during the event.
Marshall Superior Court II Judge Dean Colvin served as emcee for the opening ceremony. State Rep. Jack Jordan, R-District 17, of Bremen, was the event’s featured speaker.
Jordan asked the crowd of about 200 to keep in mind some statistics surrounding the Vietnam War.
“In total, 58,318 soldiers died in the line of duty in Vietnam,” he said. “That’s 12,000 more than the total population of Marshall County.
‘Tonight … as we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the significance is unfathomable to me and most of us who didn’t serve,” Jordan continued. “And so the sacrifice was great. … Every one of the individuals behind these numbers was someone special to friends and to family and of infinite value as a person. There were dreams and potential that were smothered out by their sacrifice on our behalf.”
Rev. Samuel Boys, director of religious life at Culver Military Academies, gave both the invocation and benediction during Thursday’s opening ceremonies.
“We gather here this evening as one community recognizing our common humanity, recognizing our connectedness to one another, recognizing are connectedness to all those who have served our country, all those names” Boys said. “All those names have such a story behind them – stories of the soldiers, stories of their families. Tonight we come to honor them and to honor all who have given their lives so we might stand here today and still live in freedom.”
The CMA concert band, choir and color guard also took part in the ceremony.
The replica Vietnam Memorial’s visit is sponsored by Plymouth American Legion Post #27.
Ceremonies involving the memorial’s visit will continue over the weekend.
The Vietnam Veterans Honor Ceremony is 7 p.m. Friday. Brigadier General David Vesper, deputy commander of the Indiana National Guard, will be Friday’s featured speaker.
The First Responders Honor Ceremony is 7 p.m. Saturday. Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran Ren VanGilder is Saturday’s featured speaker.
The memorial will be at River Park Square through 3 p.m. Sunday.