CLEARWATER — For the first time, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is coming to Clearwater. And when it arrives Wednesday afternoon, it'll be accompanied through the Tampa Bay area by a motorcade of 500 motorcycles.
The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will be on display from Thursday night through Monday at the Carpenter Complex adjacent to Bright House Networks Field.
It will be free and open to the public 24 hours a day.
The wall is a 3/5-scale model of the memorial in Washington, D.C. It's nearly 300 feet long and stands 6 feet tall at the center. Like the original, it has more than 58,000 names engraved on it.
Such a memorial hasn't been in Pinellas County for 17 years, when a traveling wall was displayed in St. Petersburg's Straub Park in 1991, organizers say. This one is a Florida-based replica built in 2006, and is one of several walls that tour the country.
"It has been a dream of ours for many years to have it here," said Dianne Magee, vice president of the Clearwater Veterans Alliance. "The wall is so therapeutic. It heals, just being around it."
Volunteers on the scene will have a computer database of where names are located on the wall, as well as charcoal and onion-skin paper for visitors to make rubbings of names, said Shelly Bauer of the Veterans Alliance. Trucks carrying the wall's pieces will move through the region with a motorcade of hundreds of bikers on Wednesday afternoon. They'll start at 1 p.m. at an assembly point near interstates 4 and 75. They'll take I-275 and the Courtney Campbell Parkway, likely arriving in Clearwater between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m., Bauer said.
Also on display will be the "Some Gave All" moving tribute, a series of panels listing the names of Americans who died in the Persian Gulf War, in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Saturday, the city will host its annual Veterans Appreciation Day at Bright House Field.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4160.