The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Memorial Wall arrived in Danbury Tuesday led by the Connecticut State Police and about 50 motorcyclists, who escorted it from the Orange County Choppers in New York.
Once the truck carrying the wall pieces arrived at Rogers Park, about 40 volunteers, many who have been preparing for this day for a year, started setting it up in the pouring wind and rain.
"It really opens Friday morning," said John Falkowski, the director/manager of Green Funeral Home at 57 Main Street, Danbury.
Opening ceremony will include remarks by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy as well performances by the Celtic Cross Pipe and Drum, Danbury Mad Hatters Chorus and Lisa Montalvo.
The Dignity Wall Vietnam Memorial Wall is a touring exact replica of the Vietnam War Memorial at the Mall in Washington D.C. The replica was created by the Dignity Memorial network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers in 1990, and it has been touring the nation since then.
"There's a lot of names on there," said Frank Northrop of New Fairfield, a volunteer helping to set up the wall Tuesday. Northrop served in Chulai, Vietnam, in 1969 in the Army Infantry. "There are a couple of them I look for."
When the wall is ready for visitors Friday morning, people will be able to search a computer tucked safely inside a tent for directions to the name they're looking for. A second tent will be set up to provide veteran services and a third tent will be set up for ceremonies and events to honor veterans through Sunday at 4 p.m., when the wall will be removed.
A second volunteer, Richard Knapp of Danbury, said he has visited the wall in Washington several times. He served in Vietnam from December 1967 to July 1969, serving as an Air Force intelligence officer, a job he jokingly referred to as a clerk with a security pass.
"It's so chilling to see the wall," Knapp said. "I think people will have the same feeling here. There are 58,000 names on it. That's a good-sized city."
Knapp said the compound where he worked in Vietnam was named after a soldier who died, and when he returns on Thursday or Friday, he'll look him up.
For more information about the wall and the hard work that led to its visiting Danbury, it's hard to say it better than the sponsors did on their webpage.
"The rain kind of makes the mood. It's fitting," Knapp said.