A replica of the Vietnam War Memorial — “The Wall” — was installed last week at the Dinuba Veterans Memorial building.
It’s the first permanent installation on the West Coast, according to those who made it happen.
“There’s one in Oklahoma,” says Romelia Castillo of Orosi, who started the movement to get one in Dinuba.
A dedication ceremony for the 241-foot wall will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at 249 S. Alta Ave. American Legion officials will be present.
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Bringing “The Wall” to Dinuba began with a trip to Washington, D.C., several years ago.
“We went to visit the Vietnam wall,” Castillo says. “There was something about it that touched your soul.”
Traveling walls came to Tulare and Cutler and Castillo says she got the idea of having a permanent one in the area so those who couldn’t go to Washington could see “The Wall.”
She contacted the company that makes the replicas and reeled from sticker shock: $177,000 for a model that has etched names like the original.
She reached out to local veterans and several joined her cause. They started a committee, the Vietnam Memorial Wall Local Veterans Campaign, which to date has raised money for two $20,000 payments; $34,000 is due by the end of May.
Moses Ibarra, 72, of Reedley, a retired math teacher, served in the Army in the 9th Infantry Division and was in Vietnam in 1966-67. He reflected on the symbolism of “The Wall”: “Me, I was lucky, I came back. It’s a recognition of the people who didn’t come back. They didn’t have a chance to experience life.”
Hours for the public to see “The Wall” are still being determined, but the plan is to be open round-the-clock at least on weekends.
“They come at midnight,” Ibarra said. “They want to be alone. They come at 1 a.m.”
There will a guidebook to find locations of names, and a donation box.
HOT DOGS: The Wienerschnitzel bus visited The Bethlehem Center in Visalia last week bringing free hot dogs to the homeless as part of a month-long “Free Hot Dogs for Homeless” tour.
For more than half an hour, students from Redwood High passed out hot dogs, bottled water and chips to all comers.
Family-run Wienerschnitzel has teamed up with Skate For Change, a nonprofit that that encourages youths to assist the less fortunate.
Skate for Change has a Central Valley chapter in Visalia, so the tour paid a visit to Redwood High — chapter president Armando Sanchez. 17, is a student — and The Bethlehem Center.
About 50,000 hot dogs will be distributed by the end of the tour, said Wienerschnitzel owner J.R. Galardi.
Angel Velasquez, 38, formerly of Las Vegas, is not homeless but he’s looking for work. He and his wife Kristin Velasquez and three children were at the center when the hot dogs were being passed out.
“It gives everybody a smile on their face,” Kristin Velasquez said.