RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J. – More than 200 people gathered on the Great Lawn at Overpeck County Park on Thursday to touch and reflect on The Moving Wall.
The wall, which will remain at the in Ridgefield Park county facility through May 23, is a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
The Bergen County Division of Veterans Services conducted somber ceremonies to mark the occasion. These included a presentation of colors by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 800 and a stirring roll call of the names of Bergen County residents killed in the war.
Special note was made of Capt. Eleanor Grace Alexander of River Vale — one of eight nurses whose helicopter was shot down by enemy fire in 1968.
“Among the nearly 60,000 names carved into the wall are the names of 189 Bergen County residents who went missing or were killed in action during the Vietnam War,” said Bergen County Executive James Tedesco during his remarks.
“We are so proud to honor their service and sacrifice, especially right before Memorial Day,” he added. “They are not forgotten.”
Afterwards, there was a laying of the wreaths at the wall, followed by a three-volley salute and the playing of TAPS.
Luigi Di Martino of Tenafly was one of many veterans in attendance. Now a member of Disabled American Veterans, Northern Valley Chapter 32, in Bergenfield, he served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1967.
“I was lucky to get out of there,” he said. “I survived five infantry calls.”
He came to contemplate a name on the wall – Raymond Crowder, one of the soldiers who was in his unit.
“He made it through four infantry calls, but the fifth one did him in,” DiMartino recalled. “In today’s world, everybody forgets what we did. It’s hard when you see all those names on the wall. It brings back a lot of bad memories.”
But the wall drew people from other generations, too, including Melissa Krulish of Bogota and her daughter, Riley.
“I’m trying to educate her about the war,” Krulish said.
The names of more than 1,000 Bergen residents who were casualties of the war will be publicly read at the site at 3 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, and 7 p.m. Monday.