MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, GA -- FORT BENNING, Ga. - Not even the remnants of a tropical storm could keep a group of the legendary Navy Seabees from completing their mission Saturday. Eleven Sailors from the Columbus, Ga., reserve unit and one retired Army Special Forces veteran who volunteered, 'weathered' the storm to construct the foundation for the moving Vietnam Memorial. The wall, which is scheduled to be displayed Oct. 11-13 at Fort Benning, Ga., is a transportable replica of the original Vietnam Memorial in Washington.
Though it is a fraction of the original memorial's size, the movable wall contains every name the original does.
"It was a great honor to work on a project like this," said Petty Officer Michael Brewer, construction chairman for the Vietnam Wall who was the Seabee in charge of construction for the miniature wall.
The foundation was laid just across the street from Fort Benning's Infantry Museum. The Army Base at Columbus, Ga., has been fittingly coined as the home of the infantry.
According to Brewer, the 250-ft. wooden foundation will keep the wall level. It took the Seabees just six and a half hours to construct the wooden frame. Placing the wall on the frame and getting the surrounding area up to par, beautifying the area and making the wall easy to access should take about two days, scheduled for Oct. 9-10.
Although most of the details have been hammered out, volunteers are still needed to help people find the names of their loved ones and to operate the computer systems that will be set up to help visitors locate names.
Rubbing paper will be available for imprinting the heroes names' on something visitors can take home.
The moving wall was started in 1982 when a group of Vietnam War veterans who wanted to share their pride with others who may never get the chance to visit the memorial in Washington.
Michael Turner, postal worker/Seabee who helped construct the foundation, said it was a great honor to work on such a project. Turner, himself a veteran of the highly criticized war, said a lot of America's warriors weren't treated appropriately after the war.
"[Some veterans] didn't feel like they did anything for their country because the country didn't honor them," said Turner. "As time went on, the country realized the contribution they [Vietnam War veterans] made and they [American citizens] gave them a little more respect and honor through this memorial."
Turner said he and his wife would be there when the wall was finished.
"It's an honor to the guys that served who didn't get a lot of recognition at the time," he said. "It's about time they get that recognition. It gives them honor just to remember them."
Stuart Hansen, a retired soldier, spent 23 years in the military, including two years in special operations in Vietnam. He said he volunteered to help with the wall because he saw a very small brief in the paper and decided to lend a hand.
Hansen, whose brother's name is on the wall, said he was very close to having his own name added to the wall many times.
"I was at the original dedication of the wall in D.C. To be able to come to it locally instead of having to go to Washington, is a lot more convenient," said Hansen, then added with a chuckle, "D.C. is a long way away."
Due to the number of veterans in the community, Hansen said displaying the wall locally would be a great success.
"I'm looking forward to it being here. It's a great opportunity for people to come participate. Everybody is trying to find a way to honor America. Coming out to this wall would be a very good way to do that," he said.