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Traveling Tribute arrives in Q'site

Joanne Winer

January 31st, 2007

The long anticipated arrival of the American Veterans' Traveling Tribute on Jan. 24, brought hundreds of people out to welcome them to Quartzsite.

The escort traveled down Hwy 60 from Wickenburg to Interstate 10, after meeting with the contingent of motorcycles and vintage cars at the Wagons West RV Park north of Brenda. By the time it had passed the Gold Nugget Road overpass, hundreds of people lined the bridges to greet them on their way to Quartzsite.

The escort went up exit 19 onto B-10, where it entered Quartzsite at the east end of town to the cheers of hundreds of people lining the route to the Town Park on Plymouth Road.

A welcoming ceremony was held at the park after the truck and motorcycle escort entered the grounds for the exhibit. Sponsors of the event were on hand to greet the Traveling Tribute exhibit, and a reception was held for everyone who attended.

On Jan. 25, the set-up of the exhibits was done with the help of local volunteers and Scholars' Academy students. They helped erect the huge replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, which is 385 feet in length and eight feet high at the apex.

The set-up of the Wall took over four hours, with the other exhibits also being set up in the pavilion wings at the same time. Exhibits were then open to the public.

Official opening ceremonies were held on Jan. 27. The welcome and introduction of sponsors was followed by a parade of honor guards from several area VFWs, American Legions, and posting of flags by the VFW State Color Guard.

After the posting of the flags, the National Anthem was sung by 13-year-old Holly Jo Samsill from Wickenburg. The Pledge of Allegiance followed, and the Invocation was then done by Pastor Jeff Jones from Quartzsite.

Quartzsite Mayor Verlyn Michel, a Vietnam veteran, then made a speech to the huge crowd, telling of some of his experiences and asking for support of the troops "still fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today."

A special song, "Once was a soldier," was performed by VFW State Honor Guard soloist Buddy Reynolds.

Guest speakers were Dennis Dole, state surgeon and past post commander VFW Post 769 in Quartzsite, and Tony Mangine, VFW District 1 Commander from Yuma. They both spoke of their experiences in Korea and Vietnam and also asked for support of the troops still in conflict.

Buddy Reynolds then sang 'God Bless America' joined by the crowd of people who were filling the pavilion and surrounding area. Coordinator Joanne Winer then introduced Don Allen, one of the owners of the exhibit. Allen introduced his partners and crew and explained what the exhibits and Wall were all about and why it was so important that this tribute travels the country to give others a chance to see it.

After several acknowledgements and thank yous to all the volunteers and others who helped make the event possible, a special presentation was given to Joanne Winer.

Commander Mark Rozo, representing the Inmates Veterans Association at Ironwood State Prison and Curtis Wells, representing the Inmates Veterans Group from Chuckawalla State Prison, both in Blythe, each gave Winer a check for $1,000 from funds raised by the inmate veterans at each prison. As a surprise, owners of the Traveling Tribute presented each of the groups with a print of the picture of the Wall for their generous donations. A videotape of the ceremonies will also be given to each of these groups so they could be included in the ceremonies since they could not attend.

A roll call of each branch of the armed forces with their theme music followed, with veterans from each branch clapping and standing as their branch was announced. This was followed by the laying of wreaths by members of the Ladies Auxiliary from the different posts of the VFWs and Legions. A moment of silence for all fallen veterans was held, then the playing of the Last Post and Taps was performed by Sonja Bartel from Quartzsite. The closing prayer and retirement of flags ended the program.

The Traveling Tribute will be in Quartzsite until Feb. 18, the longest it has ever been in one venue. Hundreds of people have been to see this exhibit since it opened and several more ceremonies have been planned for the upcoming days it is in Quartzsite. Complete programs are available at the site. The exhibits are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., with the Vietnam Wall open 24 hours a day. For further information, call the Quartzsite Business Chamber of Commerce at 928-927-9321.