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I t started off on Sunday with a motorcycle escort. More than 2,000 riders met and escorted the 4/5-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. to Wickham Park in Melbourne, Florida. Crowds of citizens lined the route waving and cheering as the procession of riders rolled by. At the park, the Wall was assembled and other preparations made for the official opening ceremony on Monday.

The opening ceremony includes the presenting of colors, laying of wreaths, distinguished speakers, an elegant rifle salute and taps. The Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day until the closing ceremony the following Sunday. A staff of volunteers answers questions and assists onlookers. The Wall is to honor the more than 58,000 men and women who gave their lives in the Vietnam War. This year the reunion was changed to include all veterans because the United States has been involved in many military actions since Vietnam, including our current actions in Iraq.

The Wall is set up at the south end of the park, and it is a very moving sight. I visit it every year to pay my respects to PSGT John Herlihy, Regular Army, who died in Vietnam in 1966. If you ever get a chance to visit the Wall, you should definitely do so.

The reunion was also established to afford a healing effort to those faced with war problems. It all starts with ‘Welcome Home, Brother" The Mobile Museum that houses memorabilia of the Vietnam War is on the grounds, as well as vehicles and numerous displays. It is a living history lesson that tries to help those who were not in Vietnam better understand what our troops went through, and to also understand other aspects of the war.

In another section of the park the party portion of the reunion kicked off on Friday at 4:00 p.m. That is where the music played, drinks and food were consumed, riders camped and military vendors shared their wares and displays.

The celebration continued until the closing ceremony Sunday at 7:00 p.m., back at the Wall with a candlelight vigil. Everyone placed their candles carefully near the names of their lost brothers.

The reunion has its serious moments, times of grief, terrible memories and prayers. But it is also a time of greeting old friends and getting to spend some serious time with them. Of course every year I make new friends, too, so the party just goes on and on.

All this has made this the largest veteran’s grassroots reunion in the country. I would like to remind everyone to thank our military people who are risking their lives now serving our country, and pray that they make it home safe. If you did not make it in 2004, visit in 2005. The Wall will arrive April 18th and be on display until the 25th, with the Reunion Party from the 23rd to 25th.

For more information contact Rogue at rogue@bikerrogue.com, or visit the reunion web page at http://members.aol.com/FLVIETVETS/reunion.html







This article is from Biker Number 225 February 2005 an Easyriders magazine.

Photography by Rogue.




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