A traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is coming to Niles next week.
A traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is coming to Niles next week.

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Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall coming to Niles

Published 11:21am Friday, June 20, 2014

Not everyone has the money or the time to travel to Washington, D.C., to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which lists the names of more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in the conflict.

Next week, Michiana residents will have the opportunity to see the next best thing when the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Wall replica comes to Niles June 26 through the June 29.

The traveling wall is an 80 percent scale version of the actual Vietnam Memorial, measuring 360-feet in length and eight feet tall at its apex. It contains all the names that are on the original.

“A lot of residents in southwest Michigan and Niles will never be able to get out and see the wall itself,” said John Sly, commander of American Legion Post 26 in Niles — the organization responsible for bringing the wall to Niles. “This way they will be able to say they’ve seen a likeness of it and that they were able to come out and show their respect.”

The traveling wall is the centerpiece of what is called the Cost of Freedom Tribute, which honors all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the U.S., from veterans to active duty military to police offers and firefighters.

The wall and the rest of the memorials will be set up Thursday morning at the practice field at Niles High School. It will be open for public viewing beginning in the early afternoon Thursday and ending Sunday afternoon.

All bikers and people with classic cars or military equipment are invited to participate in escorting the Vietnam Wall replica on Wednesday. This is a police escorted ride. Staging for the ride begins at 2 p.m. and the ride will be departing at 5 p.m.

The route will leave Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo and travel on US-12 through Three Oaks before rolling through downtown Niles via Main Street and arriving at Niles High School. Sly said those wanting to view the ride should line up on Main Street downtown between 5 and 5:30 p.m.

Those who do not pre-register should arrive early to do so. The registration fee is $25 per bike and $30 with a rider. Checks are payable to American Legion Post 26, PO Box 706, Niles MI 49120. For additional ride information, contact Melinda Michael, Ride Coordinator, at (269) 876-2923, email americanlegionpost26nilesmi@gmail.com or contact Sly at (269) 357-1411.

While there is no cost to view the memorial, Sly said donation boxes would be set up throughout the area. Donation letters have also been sent to area businesses.

Sly said the tribute cost $15,000.

Organizers are also looking for volunteers to help with parking, guarding the wall and transporting those who need assistance getting to the wall. Sly said he would need about 100 volunteers throughout the four-day event.

Information about the entire June 26-29 event is available online at www.americanlegionpost26.org

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