Nearly 50 area bikers representing veterans' motorcycle groups recently escorted "The Wall That Heals" from the Virginia/North Carolina border to Frank Liske Park in Concord.
The traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Museum arrived in Concord about 1 p.m. March 29. The half-sized replica of the Washington D.C. monument was unveiled at 9 a.m. March 31 and stayed open 24 hours a day through April 3.
Evan Parton, 54, a Cabarrus-area resident for 32 years and store manager for Harrisburg's Dollar Tree, has been part of the Patriot Guard Riders for four years. He rides to honor all veterans, including his father, who served in the Army, and his father-in-law, who served in the Navy.
"I do get emotional thinking about what these guys have done, what any veteran or any military person does, to give us the freedom we have to ride down the road and do what we do," he said about traveling with the wall replica for the second time. "This is my way of saying thank you."
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Four years ago, Parton said he escorted the traveling wall to a park in Charlotte. And in 2010, he was part of 125 motorcyclists who escorted the body of Army Pfc. Christopher Barton through the streets of Harrisburg as hundreds lined the streets to pay their respects. The 22-year-old paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division was killed by insurgents on May 24.
The traveling wall has been seen by millions of people in more than 300 cities and town throughout the United States. The mobile museum was added in 1998 and redesigned in 2009 to educate visitors about the Vietnam War era. Some of the 100,000 items left at the traveling wall and the national monument will be on display, as will photos and biographical information of the 58,000-plus people engraved on the wall.
Families, friends and other veterans visiting were asked to bring their photos so they could be scanned to be considered for the Vietnam Veterans Education Center under construction in Washington, D.C.
The event was part of Cabarrus County Library's One Book One Community program, which is paired with Tim O'Brien's novel, "The Things They Carried."
The author will visit Cabarrus County this weekend to talk about his experiences and answer questions. A free program open to the public is scheduled from 7:30-9 p.m. April 9 at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Registration is required.
Durham's Bill "Jammer" Amerson said the traveling memorial and museum can help bring closure to those who need it by connecting people who can't visit the original memorial in Washington, D.C. After his short speech to the group, he called for a moment of silence for the 58,479 names on the wall, as well as for North Carolina, which still has 41 veterans unaccounted for.
"We appreciate all of you coming out today and bringing our brothers and sisters here to Concord," said Amerson, also representing the Patriot Guard Riders. "It really means a lot to set up this memorial for the next couple days and have the folks from this town come out and visit."