March 24 • 11:54 AM


Hundreds welcome The Moving Wall

Mandy Schwerin and her daughter Chelsea, 11, touch the name of Chelsea’s great-uncle Thomas Hendershott on Moving Wall after opening ceremonies on Thursday as other visitors reach for the healing power of the Wall. photo by Catherine Minolli.

August 22, 2007
LAPEER — One by one the names ring out. The dusky air is silent. The crowd is captive in the moment. A lone white dove flaps its wings and soars overhead—taking flight after each name is called.

Thomas Harrison; Rodney Edwards; Thomas Hendershott; Terry McComb; Gordon Kropp; Dennis Getty; Robert Greanya-Blissett; Wayne Pingel; James Baucom; Fred McHugh Jr.; Paul Kohler; Michael Beals; Henry Gutierrez Jr.; Thomas Gregson; Douglas Matheson; David Bonesteel; Robert Beckman; Charles Sharpe; Richard Salmond; Joseph Marshall III. Twenty souls. Twenty white doves. Twenty names on The Wall.

Keynote speaker Jerry Newberry shares heartfelt words about fellow Vietnam veterans.
To a large crowd, The Moving Wall was officially introduced and welcomed back to Lapeer County on Thursday evening. Set up on the grounds of the American Legion Hall on Genessee St., the opening ceremonies were officiated by Vietnam veterans Glenn Ream and Joe Cain.

Both Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 287 members reminded the crowd of the importance of paying homage to The Moving Wall, and of taking part in its healing powers.

Keynote speaker Jerry Newberry, national director of communications for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, moved many to tears with a letter he wrote years ago to 33 'brothers' he lost in Vietnam.

Newberry said it wasn't until The Moving Wall visited Imlay City in 1998 that he was able to find some sort of peace with his memories of the controversial conflict.

"I'd been to The Mall in Washington D.C. many times but could never bring myself to visit The Wall," Newberry said. "I now know the healing power of The Wall."

Guitarist Joe Toole and musician Tom Wearing perform Wearing’s original song, written for The Moving Wall’s 1998 visit to Imlay City. photo by Catherine Minolli.

Other special guests included the Patriot Guard, Rev. Carl Meier of the First Baptist Church of Attica, Ron Lindsay, Pastor Rick Menzing, VFW Post #16 Commander Art Whelan, Lapeer Mayor Charles Sprague and Neda Payne, director of the Lapeer Area Chamber of Commerce. The white doves were provided by 'Wings of Elegance.'

Vocalist Ken Casey captured the crowd with his acapella renditions of 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'O Canada.' Local guitarist Joe Toole and writer and musician Tom Wearing enraptured the audience with Wearing's original 'Another Name on the Wall,' a timeless song written specifically for the 1998 visit of The Moving Wall to Imlay City.

For the Schwerin family, The Moving Wall's visit to Lapeer was their first encounter with the memorial—though each generation of the family is intimately familiar with the Vietnam war.

"We came to pay tribute and to show our kids the sacrifices made for our freedom," Mandy Schwerin, 32, said.

Mandy said she didn't realize the impact of Vietnam and the political climate of the country at the time until she met and married her husband, Tony, also 32. Thomas Hendershott, the third name called out during the opening ceremony, was Tony's uncle. Of course, Tony never met the man but grew up knowing he was deeply loved and missed.

"The impact of (Hendershott's) death on the whole family really made me realize that it affects everyone, not just the parents but the siblings and future generations," Mandy said.

Vietnam veterans Joe Cain (back) and Glenn Ream at opening ceremonies on Thursday.
Along with the Schwerins' young kids Chelsea and Zak, family members Richard and Shirley Pardee were also at the ceremony to pay tribute to Hendershott and the others.

"My daughter was saying that she could hear the noise coming from the (Lapeer Days) carnival and she wanted to be there," Mandy said. "I told her that we need to stand here and be thankful to these veterans that we can hear those sounds and go to a carnival and live in a free country."

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