ATTLEBORO — An estimated 10,000 people visited a scaled-down replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during a five-day stay at Highland Park that ended Monday.
The turnout more than met the expectations of organizers, though city Veterans Agent Ken Badertscher said they knew there would be a lot of interest in the Moving Wall.
“Attleboro is a really patriotic city,” he said.
Badertscher said the 150 lined parking spaces at Highland Park were close to full nearly 24 hours a day, from the Thursday opening to Monday’s closing ceremonies, and often parked vehicles overflowed onto a grass field.
Hundreds attended ceremonies at the wall and 1,500 schoolchildren visited Friday.
“I couldn’t ask for anything to be any better,” Badertscher said. “Attleboro really turned out.”
The wall was loaded up and shipped off to New Jersey after a noon ceremony in Attleboro, as the tribute to fallen soldiers continues it tour of the nation.
Like the original in Washington, the replica is black and etched into it are the names of every American who lost his or her life in Vietnam.
The monument also reflects back on visitors.
About $30,000 was raised to bring the replica to Attleboro, and Badertscher said about 150 people volunteered for the project. They were on duty day and night.
He said the idea was first broached to him by the late Jim Bound, when he was veterans agent in North Attleboro.
North Attleboro has already hosted the wall and Bound suggested it was Attleboro’s turn, Badertscher said.
The closing ceremony was attended by hundreds, including a large contingent of Vietnam War veterans, who were presented with lapel pins.
The veterans marched into the area led by a man playing “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes and followed by a riderless horse with boots turned backward in the stirrups, a military funeral tradition.
The wall was set up on the former Highland Country Club, which the city purchased after it went into bankruptcy and turned into a park earlier this year.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III said the wall appeared to blend in perfectly with the surroundings.
“It looks like it has been here forever,” he said.
But the wall was gone hours later.
Speeches at the ceremony focused on the debt America owes to Vietnam veterans, who many feel did not get the respect they deserved when they returned from the war.
City Councilor Todd Kobus, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said he remembers coming home and well wishers had lined the streets of Rehoboth as his unit pulled into a National Guard facility there.
In contrast, Vietnam veterans were dismissed individually and were greeted by protesters.
“I’m sorry I ever received the homecoming you deserved,” he told the veterans at the ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by several city officials, although Mayor Paul Heroux was out of town for a previously scheduled vacation, which, he said, was his first in 11 months.
He attended the opening ceremonies last week.