A small, collapsible replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. will be leaving Chase Palm Park today after a six-day stop that drew hundreds of visitors to look at the 58,219 engraved names.
The “Moving Wall” arrived on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The Santa Barbara appearance, arranged by the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, is just one stop in a tour of western and mid-western states. The exhibit is dedicated to the 2.7 million men and women who served in the Vietnam War, local VVA member Jim Kurrasch said.
“I wasn’t here for the last appearance five years ago. But I believe there are definitely more [visitors] now,” he said. “I think Sept. 11 definitely had something to do with that. There’s a better attitude toward veterans and the military.”
Measuring 252 feet from one end to the other, the wall is slightly longer than half the length of its D.C. counterpart and breaks down into 74 panels for travel. The names of 99 residents of Santa Barbara are on the wall. Retired Capt. Gib Beltrane, a Santa Barbara native who flew an Army Medivac helicopter during the war, visited old friends.
The name of William E. Cordero, who served in the Airforce and went to Santa Barbara’s Bishop Garcia Diego High School with Beltrane, is on the wall, as is that of 1st Lt. Charles F. Kane, whom Beltrance met en route to the South China Sea.
“We sailed out of the East Coast – Atlanta, GA,” he said. “He was assigned to [Army] Air Cab helicopters and I went to a different division. But we spent 30 days onboard that vessel together. It wasn’t but two weeks after we arrived that he was killed.”
The Santa Barbara VVA held a dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. on Saturday that featured speakers such as representative Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), Santa Barbara mayor Harriet Miller and state Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Ventura). The VVA footed the entire bill for the display, including $35,000 to bring and maintain the wall, $2,000 to bring support staff, and $540 that went to the city for permits.
The “Moving Wall” was built and is maintained by the Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd., and spends its downtime in San Jose, Calif. Construction began in February 1983 and was completed in October 1984. Its first appearance was in Tyler, Texas.
Wartime casualties listed on the memorial occurred between 1956 and 1975, much longer than the United States’ official involvement overseas. There are no civilian names, eight female nurses, one father and son pair, and 16 military chaplains listed. Approximately 1,300 of the names are still unaccounted for prisoners of war and those missing in action. The names are listed chronologically, following the date of casualty or disappearance, and alphabetized within each day. The reference book on hand is larger than a phone book.
“It has over 58,000 names in it,” Kurrasch said. “Line after line after line after line.”
A number of UCSB students also came out to see the wall. Senior art history major Nicole DeGuzman, who didn’t know any of the names chiseled into the slab, said it is important to remember the sacrifices in American history.
“I think it is a civic duty,” she said. “It is not right to forget people who fight for this country.”