Schenectady County

Thanks to community, Wall That Heals arrives in Princetown

The Wall That Heals, a traveling 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., arrive
Volunteers work Wednesday morning to assemble the Wall That Heals, a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. The memorial will be on display in Princetown through Sunday afternoon.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Volunteers work Wednesday morning to assemble the Wall That Heals, a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. The memorial will be on display in Princetown through Sunday afternoon.

The sun beat down on the patch of land next to Princetown Town Hall on Wednesday morning, glinting off a 250-foot wall that had just been assembled.

Dozens of volunteers were spread across the length of the wall for a few hours, starting at 8 a.m. Some carried panels of the wall off a truck while others hammered ropes and braces into the ground to keep the structure in place.

By late morning, the Wall That Heals, a traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall replica, was completed. It represented the culmination of an entirely volunteer-led effort to bring the wall to Princetown, where it will be open for public viewing from Thursday morning through Sunday afternoon.

“To pull this off was a minor miracle,” said James Pavoldi, one of five residents who led the effort to bring the wall to Princetown.

The Wall That Heals is a traveling 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., which displays the names of over 58,000 dead or unaccounted-for soldiers from the Vietnam War. It will be in Princetown until Sunday, and will be open 24 hours a day starting with an opening ceremony Thursday at 10 a.m. To bring the wall to the community, the town had to pay $7,500. That cost has been offset by donations and business contributions.

Five organizers led the effort to successfully bring the wall to town. Lou Esposito, Carol McLane, James and Hannah Pavoldi and Doug Thorpe met on a weekly basis for months in advance of the memorial’s arrival. They spent those meetings coordinating logistics, maintaining contact with the Washington D.C. officials who oversee the wall and recruiting volunteers to assist upon the structure’s arrival.

In many cases, larger towns that host the wall are able to pay for it through municipal funding. However, the money wasn’t available in Princetown. Instead, the cost of the wall and the equipment needed to prepare the site were covered by donations from residents and area businesses.

“The budget was blood, sweat, tears, love of this town and love of our veterans,” James Pavoldi said. “That’s what got this done.”

In addition to weekly meetings, volunteers got together on several Saturdays to beautify the space next to Town Hall where the wall will be on display. Doug Thorpe, who largely led the charge in preparing the location, was at the site nearly every day of the summer, he said, transforming the area from a patch of brush and bushes to open grass with flowers and flags.

“I loved every minute I was here,” he said.

The volunteers were joined by dozens of others on Wednesday morning to assemble the wall itself, which arrived in Princetown via escort on Tuesday. Some of the volunteers were veterans, while others were just residents hoping to contribute. They gathered around 8 a.m., and began piecing together the 24 panels of the wall.

“Little Princetown, it’s a postage stamp of land, and the residents and the businesses made it happen,” Thorpe said. “It reflects the character of our community.”

Volunteers will be at the wall around the clock to help visitors find a name or provide additional info. The display includes a trailer that serves as a museum, and features artifacts and information about the war and those that served.

Bob Myers, Princetown’s town supervisor, said he’s excited for the event. The display helps show that the town supports veterans, and the manner in which it came together reflects what the town is about, he said.

He personally has never seen the full-size wall in D.C., but Myers said this weekend is an opportunity for residents to take in something they might never otherwise see.

The Wall That Heals officially opens next to Princetown Town Hall with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on Thursday. It will remain open 24 hours a day until a closing ceremony at 2 p.m. Additional parking for visitors will be available at nearby Schalmont High School, and shuttles will take them to the wall.

Reach Gazette reporter Brett Samuels at 395-3113, [email protected] or @Brett_Samuels27 on Twitter.

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