Pit stop of Memorial Wall draws a crowd in Morgan County
story by Jessica Blomquist • photos by Angelina Bellebuono
The engines of nearly 130 motorcycles roared as they passed under the overpass behind the tractor-trailer truck containing the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall on the way to Augusta on Tuesday, June 24.
The motorcycle escort accompanying the truck filled the entire parking lot of the Travel America truck stop and BP gas station as the group made a pit stop in Madison before heading down I-20 to Augusta.
The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall, at 240 feet long and eight feet high, is a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Etched into the reflective surface of the faux-granite wall are the names of more than 58,000 American soldiers who died or went missing in Vietnam.
The wall, constructed in 1990, travels to around 12 locations across the country each year. This gives those who may never have the chance to visit the nation’s capital the ability to experience the magnitude of the wall on a slightly smaller scale.
Michael Louviere of Lawrenceville, Georgia ride captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, was one of the riders showing their respect for fallen comrades by escorting the wall to Augusta where it will be erected in Hillcrest Memorial Park from June 27-29.
“It’s been a good ride,” Louviere said. “We’ve had good support from the Georgia State Patrol.”
The brigade left Dalton Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and stopped in Madison at 12:30 p.m. on its way to the first of two stops the wall will be making in Georgia this year.
Pat Garrett, venue committee chairman, is in charge of getting the wall to Augusta and the events there.
At 9:30 a.m. Friday, the wall will be unveiled in an opening ceremony at the park where the Ft. Gordan band will play.
Saturday at 9:30 p.m., they will hold a candlelight service at the wall.
“It gets very personal,” Garrett said. “It’s emotional. Many of the people who are here are veterans.”
The tan, weathered faces of the men and women in the escort were testaments to their experience. The patch-covered vests and motorcycle gear they wore were evidence of their way of life and their devotion to those who have served our country.
“Look at all these rough-looking guys out here,” said Jack Franklin of Chatsworth, an Air Force veteran riding with American Legion Post #167. “But it’s like they say, ‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts.’ Many of the guys out here have really good hearts. We never forget.”
After Augusta, the wall will travel to Roswell for Fourth of July weekend, before heading on to Boulder, Colo.