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Plans for Vietnam Wall in Lockport continue to grow

LOCKPORT – The visit of the traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall Memorial to the Town of Lockport next month is growing bigger, Councilman Paul W. Siejak said at a Town Board meeting Monday.

The wall, a three-fifths-scale replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C., with the names of more than 58,000 service personnel killed in Vietnam inscribed upon it, will be on display on the front lawn of Town Hall June 11-14.

But ceremonies actually will begin June 10, when the wall is brought in procession from The Chapel at CrossPoint in Amherst to Lockport, with a police and motorcycle escort for the truck carrying the panels.

Councilwoman Patricia Dufour said plans are afoot to line South Transit and Robinson roads with American flags, and groups are expected to line the road to honor the memorial.

The wall is to arrive at The Chapel about 8:30 a.m. June 10, and the motorcycle escort, organized by Rick “Big Bear” Gerace of Hogs and Heroes, will roll from Amherst to Lockport, starting at 10:30 a.m.

Siejak said volunteers from several labor unions have signed up to assemble the V-shaped wall in front of Town Hall, starting at 7 a.m. June 11, and an opening ceremony has been scheduled for 5 p.m. that day.

So far, he said, it’s been difficult to find a speaker for the ceremony, but not because of a lack of interest or respect.

“They want to see it. They want to touch it. But nobody wants to talk about it. It gives me goose bumps,” Siejak said.

Because of expected large crowds during the visit, Councilman Mark C. Crocker said it may be necessary to run shuttle buses to Town Hall from the Big Lots Plaza, a shopping center on South Transit Road.

The Town Board is expected to appropriate $5,000 from the town’s surplus at Wednesday night’s meeting to pay for the shuttles and other costs that have cropped up. Supervisor Marc R. Smith said that will bring the town’s investment for the event to $15,000.

The $5,000 supplemental appropriation also is intended to pay for printing costs, including a book being compiled by two local veterans about the 82 Niagara County natives who died in Vietnam and who are listed on the wall.

Siejak said biographical information has been found so far for 67 of the 82, with veterans Donald Thompson and Gordie Bellinger handling the compilation of what Siejak called “a record of the patriots who gave their lives.”

Siejak said the Devil Dog Detachment of the Marine Corps League has agreed to provide the necessary around-the-clock security at the wall, with guards to be posted from 3 p.m. June 11 through 7 a.m. June 15, when the wall will be taken apart for shipment to its next location.

“It’s turned into a huge event to honor the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War,” Siejak said. “It’s going to be spectacular and I want to do it right. I want the Town of Lockport to really shine.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com