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WNY Knights of Columbus rally to set up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (travelling) Wall

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Knights of Columbus stand in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (traveling) Wall in Tonawanda’s Veterans Memorial Park during the closing ceremonies of the Wall’s Western New York appearance in July. Photo by J. Gregory Traves

“The Wall that Heals” is the name of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (traveling) Wall, whose purpose is for prayer and reflection.

When the announcement came out that the Traveling Wall would be in Tonawanda, Norm Murray, the director of the event, asked for volunteers. Lew Herman, a veteran, and an active volunteer at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo, proceeded to mobilize members of the Knights of Columbus. Herman had knights ready to carry out assignments that included the set up and take down of “The Wall,” roadway traffic control, general assistance to visitors, and visitor assistance at the education center. The Wall stood at Veterans Memorial Park in the city of Tonawanda, July 22-25.

Visitors seek out the names of loved ones while visiting the traveling Wall. The Vietnam Memorial travels from city to city for people who cannot see the national monument in Washington, D.C. Photo by J. Gregory Traves

Special honors were given to Navy Lieutenant Father Vincent R. Capodanno, Chaplain Corps, USNR, killed in Vietnam. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and for the caring of the wounded. Bobby LaBarbera, Chris Hull, and Bill Reese of Knights of Columbus from Msgr. Nelson Baker Assembly laid a wreath near Father Capodanno’s name on the Wall.

Jim Grubka, Eddie Hughes, Robert Raczka and Herman assisted in setting up the Wall and the information center. Raczka and Herman were also there to take it down on Sunday. John Stockman, Dan Hartman, Stanley Wawrzyniak, Hughes and Herman assisted in traffic control. Laurie Herman assisted visitors at the Wall and at the education and information center.

Lew Herman noticed the special attention that was paid to the handling and the installing of the panels. They were moved by volunteers with loving care, at a slow, somber pace. The panels were reverently carried in the flat position.

“We made sure the panel with the five names of Jim Grubka’s comrades all killed on the same day, received the same special care” said Herman. Grubka and two knights placed the panel with the five engraved names in place on the 3/5 scale model of the Vietnam Memorial that rests in Washington, D.C.

The Knights of Columbus Color Corps did honors at the Sunday closing ceremonies. Everyone participated in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Marshall Paul Sawaya directed the Color Corps that consisted of Mike Pierce, Stanley Wawrzyniak, Craig Mollon and Robert Raczka. When the marshall was asked to comment about the whole event, he could only say “Phenomenal.”

John Stockman, another veteran and active member of the knights, characterized the event as “Knights in action coming together for our beloved veterans.” 

The Wall now continues its tour throughout the country.

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