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The traveling Vietnam Wall, a slightly smaller version of the Washington memorial, offers families an opportunity to honor loved ones even when they cannot travel to the capital.
The traveling Vietnam Wall, a slightly smaller version of the Washington memorial, offers families an opportunity to honor loved ones even when they cannot travel to the capital. (Francis S. Trachta/U.S. Army )

NEW BERN, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — After a year of pandemic delay, the traveling Vietnam Wall’s stop in April in New Bern, N.C., brought emotional comfort for vets and families of the fallen.

It also attracted more than 9,000 visitors.

“The Wall That Heals” continues to count benefits to the area.

More than $18,000 in leftover fundraising money has been distributed to 18 regional veterans groups and supporting organizations.

Well-known projects such as Flag Day and Wreaths Across America benefit, along with efforts such as American Legion Post 64 in Pollocksville staying afloat amid rebuilding efforts following 2018’s Hurricane Florence.

Assistance after the visit was the plan from the outset, said George Halyak, head of the sponsoring New Bern American Legion Post 539 and the Knights of Columbus.

The upfront cost to get the wall was $10,000 payable to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington. D.C.

“We were able to raise just over $50,000 from donations from companies and individuals here in New Bern,” he said.

Expenses such as insurance, brochures, volunteer supplies, advertising and other miscellaneous costs came to $20,000, leaving $20,000 for veterans’ projects.

“Many of these groups were hurting because of Covid and the inability to have fundraisers with the lockdown imposed by the governor,” Halyak. “It’s highly unlikely that the ‘Wall’ will be back to New Bern in our lifetime.”

The money allows the Elks Veterans Committee to maintain projects such as its annual Salute to the Flag on Saturday at Union Point Park.

State Rep. Steve Tyson is the speaker and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band performs at the 10:30 a.m. public ceremony.

John Serumgard, Flag Day chair noted, “The Elks Veterans Committee is also very involved in seeking ways we can help veterans and active-duty personnel. We try to do a lot for the residents at the Kinston Veterans Home, but also seek ways to help those currently serving.”

Elks support four military relief organizations which aid soldiers, sailors and air personnel who have emergency situations.

“We have supported just about every local event honoring the veterans, from the Stand Downs, to the Women in the Military luncheons, to the Purple Heart dinners, to Wreaths Across America, and the veterans’ rooms at the RCS shelter,” he said.

The money helps to offset pandemic fundraising losses such as BBQ Rib sales at the Piggly Wiggly and solicitations at Food Lion, Walmart and other stores.

“Since the COVID pandemic, we have been unable to conduct those fund-raising solicitations, which has limited our ability to reach out to our beneficiaries,” Serumgard said. “The $1,000 contribution from the Wall That Heals will go a long way to replacing those funds. And we deeply appreciate all the hard work that George Halyak and his committees undertook to bring the Wall to New Bern, and to raise a significant fund of money now being used to support the diverse veterans’ organizations in our community.”

The Veteran Enforcers Motorcycle Association hosts Wreaths Across America at the New Bern National Cemetery each December.

“We were very fortunate to receive $1,000 from the Wall Committee,” said President Kevin Yates. “We will utilize this donation to help us prepare for the upcoming Wreaths Across America event later this year. Every wreath that is placed at the cemetery has to be sponsored, due to the size and age of the New Bern National Cemetery. Each year is an incredible challenge to place a wreath on every headstone. There are over 1,000 Unknowns buried in the cemetery and each year the gap between those buried there and those placing wreaths grows.”

Even during the pandemic, the Wreaths Across America event still drew 500 volunteers to place more than 5,000 wreaths in the cemetery.

American Legion Post 64 in Pollocksville is juggling rebuilding from Hurricane Florence and maintaining veterans’ support.

“The donation received gives us a bit more breathing room as we seek to assist others amid our own much needed building repairs,” said Commander James W. Gray Sr. “Although our post building continues to require a great deal of repair damaged by hurricane Florence, we felt it important to not lose sight of providing some level of support to veterans and their families also in need.”

For example, in May, the post repaired and replaced a kitchen sub-floor, installed new ceramic tile and base kitchen cabinets in the 1958 home of a wheelchair-using 85-year-old widow to a deceased Vietnam veteran.

“The arrival of the $800 donation was a pleasant surprise, given it arrived in the midst of our habitat for humanity project within the widow’s home,” Gray said. “The much-needed kitchen project repair was identified during our quest to recognize Vietnam veterans and their families.”

In another project, the post identified a Pollocksville Vietnam vet, who was recently placed in the N.C. Veterans Home in Fayetteville, requiring much assistance with relocation and filing of disability claims.

“There is a great deal of work to be done in our area. The funding received helps us better serve our surrounding communities,” Gray added. “We are very grateful for the financial support received from the American Legion Post 539, New Bern and the Knights of Columbus committee.”

(c)2021 the Sun Journal (New Bern, N.C.)

Visit the Sun Journal (New Bern, N.C.) at http://www.newbernsj.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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