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Festival to relaunch with war memorial

Local partners are working to bring a traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to Milwaukie High School the weekend of July 23-26, 2015, with the goal of making the wall available for viewing the same week as Milwaukie Daze and the celebration of the revitalized Riverfront Park.

To promote the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, American Legion Post 180 and the city of Milwaukie are partnering to sponsor and coordinate events and programs in honor of the service, valor and sacrifice of the men and women who served our nation in Southeast Asia and at home during Vietnam.

Over the course of two decades, more than 58,000 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice in response to the U.S. call to service in Vietnam; more than 700 were from Oregon, and 14 were from Milwaukie. These numbers, while grave and already too great by any measure, local American Legion leaders say, fail to include the millions of families, communities and nations impacted by the Vietnam War.

Jerry Craig of the American Legion said that a lot of Vietnam veterans had three or more tours, just as occurred more recently for many troops in Afganistan.

“It’s very rare to sit down with a Vietnam vet and get a full story,” Craig said. “Bringing this wall here is necessary so that we begin to understand the enormity of the event.”

The city and American Legion are contracting for about $5,000 with Michigan-based Vietnam Combat Veterans Limited for the Moving Wall for what has historically been a big event, bringing thousands of people to see the wall. Although taxpayer budgets will cover $2,500 of that, Scott Stauffer with the city of Milwaukie said that other costs are associated with putting on the event.

“There’s also a lighting cost, the cost of mounting on the high school’s football field, a 24-hour security cost, and we’ll pay for the organizer’s hotel cost,” Stauffer said. “We’re looking at a solemn ceremony on Saturday to honor those Milwaukians who were killed in the war, but the wall will be open to the public all four days.”

At the same time, the city is bringing back Milwaukie Daze, the festival’s parade and the opening of the Riverfront Park project now under construction.

Due to TriMet’s projects and work, the city has not had the parade and Milwaukie Daze festival for two years. Organizers sent a letter to Gov. John Kitzhaber to invite National Guard Army and Air Force units to be involved in the opening ceremonies of the traveling wall and the parade, plus thanking them for their service overall.

In 2008, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, directing the Department of Defense to coordinate commemoration activities. In 2012, President Obama proclaimed the years 2012 to 2025 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, and in 2013, Milwaukie joined with the American Legion as commemorative partners through a City Council proclamation in 2013.

As partners, the city and legion have committed to sponsoring and coordinating at least two events in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Details on these events will be promoted through the official city newsletter and website, as well as through the American Legion, local businesses and civic groups.

Organizers request the public’s support in any way they can contribute — either by supplying volunteer hours, logistical skill or financial assistance. Volunteer and donation forms are available at City Hall.