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Thursday, December 12, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall is coming to Medical Lake

UPDATED: Thu., May 30, 2019

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Moving Wall is seen on display in July 2001 in Sandpoint. The wall will stop in Medical Lake on June 13-17, 2019. (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Moving Wall is seen on display in July 2001 in Sandpoint. The wall will stop in Medical Lake on June 13-17, 2019. (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The organizers of the annual Medical Lake Founders Day celebration have gone bigger this year by arranging to bring the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall to Medical Lake.

The wall has been on tour since 1984 and is now one of three Vietnam Memorial replicas that travel the country, said festival director Terri Cooper. “It’s the half-sized replica,” she said. “It’s the original wall. It was built by Vietnam vets.”

Cooper is part of Re*Imagine Medical Lake, an organization dedicated to revitalizing the town. They put on the Founders Day celebration every year and have been working for the last 18 months to prepare for the Moving Wall.

Hosting the wall has been a massive undertaking, requiring $45,000 in cash and in-kind donations. “We weren’t intimidated by that,” Cooper said. “There was not looking back.”

Organizers also had to line up more than 100 volunteers, including people to help with parking, escorts to help people find names, chaplains, counselors and emergency medical staff. “It’ll take three different work groups to prep the ground,” she said. “We have to have 24/7 security, we have to have 24/7 veterans services.”

The wall will be open to the public from noon on June 13 to noon on June 17 at 200 S. Prentis St. on the Medical Lake Middle School soccer field. It will remain open 24 hours a day when in town. There will be supplies on site for people to take rubbings of names that appear on the wall.

Three special ceremonies are planned during its stay, including an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. June 13, a ceremony that includes a flyover of KC-135 tankers from Fairchild Air Force Base at noon June 15 and a closing ceremony at 6 p.m. June 16.

“That’s a lot of moving parts,” Cooper said. “We’ve never done anything like this before.”

The group is still raising money for the event. Donations can by made online at medicallake.org/vmwall or via mail to RIML VMWall, P.O. Box 344, Medical Lake, WA 99022.

“There are a few things we haven’t paid for yet,” Cooper said.

Re*Imagine Medical Lake President Gerri Johnson, who is Cooper’s sister, said she’s been surprised at the support from the community. “It’s been incredible to get a donation in our P.O. box and have a note attached that it’s in memory of someone,” she said.

A lot of people have also been willing to sign up as volunteers, Cooper said. She attributes that in part to the town’s military roots. “It’s really fascinating how this brought everyone together,” she said. “I can’t think of anyone in Medical Lake not connected to the military. It’s a military-rich community. We love our military neighbors.”

The women also have a personal reason for wanting to bring the Moving Wall to town. They’re doing it in honor of their late father, retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Hubert Marsh, who did two tours in Vietnam.

“Part of his job was to go out and rescue downed pilots,” Cooper said. “He never talked about it. It was only after he passed in 2017 when we were going through his effects when we realized he was a decorated war hero.”

The sisters are hoping the wall will have an impact on both veterans and their families. “This is a great opportunity for people to see what the memorial in Washington, D.C., looks like,” she said. “A lot of us may not ever be able to see it.”

Johnson said they have already been hearing from veterans who can’t travel to Washington, D.C., but are excited to see the Moving Wall. “It’s been tremendous already just them talking about it,” Johnson said.

A few blocks away from the Moving Wall will be the Founders Day celebration, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m. June 14 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 15. Friday’s events include a picnic and fireworks show at the Waterfront Park.

Saturday’s festivities in downtown Medical Lake include a parade at 10 a.m., a food truck court, a petting zoo, a show and shine care show, a softball tournament, basketball, games for kids and more.

Parking is expected to be an issue, particularly on June 15. Johnson said the Spokane Transit Authority will be running a shuttle between the Moving Wall and its new park and ride lot at exit 272 off Interstate 90. “That would be the smartest thing to do is ride the bus,” she said.

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