Veterans Hope for Flag-Waving Welcome for Wall That Heals

pay for newsThe Haverhill Veterans Council is looking for 100 volunteers to staff the visiting Wall That Heals, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall coming to Haverhill June 15 through 18.

The wall will be set up on the athletic fields at Haverhill High School and available for viewing around the clock from the morning of the 15th through the evening of the 18th, said veterans council President Keith Gopsill.

The replica wall is expected to arrive in Haverhill on Flag Day, June 14, around 11 in the morning. Gopsill said he hopes residents will line Monument Street from Broadway to Haverhill High School with flags waving to welcome the wall to the city.

City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua acknowledged the difficulty in bringing the Wall That Heals to Haverhill. “I am amazed at how many steps they have to follow. I am amazed at how many requirements. I am amazed at how expensive it is,” he said.

The half-scale replica travels the country to honor the more than 3 million Americans who served in the military during the Vietnam era and the more than 58,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.

Additional information and schedules of events are available on the council’s website, and its Facebook page.

Among the tasks for volunteers will be to help local families locate the names of their loved ones on the wall.

Haverhill residents who don’t have friends or family members who served or lost their lives in Vietnam can learn more about local veterans from that era by reading an e-book written by a Haverhill High School history teacher.

Marilyn Caradonna, who teaches American history to members of the junior class at HHS, compiled “Vietnam – Here and Beyond” in 2013 to show her students Haverhill’s connection to the war. It is available at iTunesU.

For example, until she published the book, most of her students were unaware that The Basiliere Bridge that connects Main and South Main streets and spans the Merrimack River is named for Haverhill’s first casualty of the Vietnam War.

Marine Ralph T. Basiliere was born two days after Valentine’s Day in 1947, was wounded on April 26, 1966 in the South Vietnam city of Quang Nam, and died at the age of 19 on May 17 on a medical transport ship on his way home.

Caradonna’s interactive book shows photographs and other remembrances of many Haverhill soldiers, provided by friends and family members. She collected the mementos in 2012, in reaction to a call from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to match faces to the names on the black granite war memorial in the nation’s capitol.

Among the items she collected are letters sent home by the servicemen, including Michael James Gambino, telling his family about a day spent at the beach playing in the surf. Gambino, a private in the Army, died at the age of 20, was killed in action on Sept. 22, 1970 in the South Vietnamese city of Binh Dinh.

In Caradonna’s book, students can click on an image of a portion of the letter, enlarge it and read Gambino’s words in his own hand.

Another photo shows POW bracelets on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Caradonna said she brings her own POW bracelet to class to show that she, too, wore the jewelry that many American high school and college students wore to call attention to American prisoners of war in Vietnam.

For students unfamiliar with the terminology of the time, the book contains a list of vocabulary words. There is also an audio component. Music of the time is included, such as “Fortunate Son”, released by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969.

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