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Traveling Tribute Leaves Q'site

Joanne Winer

February 20th, 2007

The American Veterans Traveling Tribute ended its 25 -day stay in Quartzsite with the closing ceremonies being held on Feb. 18. It is estimated that more than 70,000 people went out to the Town Park in Quartzsite to see the exhibits while they were there and more than 100 people were at the closing ceremonies to show their support for the event and to say farewell to the event.

During its stay at the park, several special ceremonies were held, including a tribute to POW/MIAs, disabled veterans, law enforcement and firefighters. A ride was made to the Wall by motorcycles, a tribute was held to honor scout dogs and service animals, and tributes were made to civilian support groups.

There was also a special day to honor the Native American contributions to the military, including the Navajo Code Talkers.

The opening ceremonies included a special presentation of donations by the Inmate Veterans Association from Ironwood State Prison and the Inmates Veteran Group from Chuckawalla State Prison in Blythe.

These groups each donated $1,000 to help with the expenses of getting the event to Quartzsite.

Closing ceremonies on Feb. 18 included guest speakers Steve McClenning from the Scholars' Academy in Quartzsite, who talked about some of the students from the area who entered military service, and 1st Sgt. Gerald Edwards, ROTC instructor from Blythe, who talked about his program and gave a special tribute to Norman Taylor of Blythe, who recently lost his life in Iraq and was one of his students.

A special tribute to the Gold Star and Blue Star mothers and families was given by Judith Hamlin, Department President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW in Arizona.

After a farewell and thank you by sponsor Joanne Winer, she was presented with an American flag and POW/MIA flag by Bud Bessie, representing the American Veterans Traveling Tribute.

A special display case will be put in Town Hall to contain the flags as well as other mementos left at the Wall and Cost of Freedom exhibits.

Many VFWs and American Legions in the area, including Blythe, Parker, Bouse and Yuma, also made donations and were included in the ceremonies along with the VFW Post from Quartzsite.

The money to bring the event to Quartzsite was raised through raffles, music nights, benefit dinners, donation cans and individual donors as well as the veteran groups.

Sponsors for the event were Celia's Rainbow Gardens, VFW Post 769 and Ladies Auxiliary Post 769, the Town of Quartzsite and the Quartzsite Business Chamber of Commerce.

Organizers said they would like to thank everyone who made this event such a success -the volunteers who helped man the computers, guards who watched the exhibits each night, those who donated food and accommodations and other items needed for the event, and all the other volunteers who worked so hard to make it happen.

A special thanks was offered to Anita and Doc Carlson, Joe Winslow, Ben Reed, Alana Yellowmoon, Bill Weid, Bill and Marty Moore, and Steve Walker for all their help during the event.

A special thanks also was given to all the guest speakers and VFWs and American Legion members who helped with the ceremonies as well as donating to the expenses.

The American Veterans Traveling Tribute left Quartzsite on Feb. 19 after all the displays and the Vietnam Memorial Wall replica were taken down and packed.

It will next be seen in Tucson before traveling to Las Vegas.

"This is the largest event to be held in Quartzsite and it was considered a huge success thanks to everyone who worked so hard and to those who came out to visit it while it was here," said Joanne Winer. "It was a very emotional experience for everyone involved, and one that will not be forgotten by anyone who saw it while it was here."