Vietnam Wall coming to Suffolk

Published 9:53 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

SUFFOLK— Mills Beale. Roland Cutchins. Joseph Spence. James Turner.

All were from Franklin.

All were killed in Vietnam.

All are among 58,267 soldiers whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Now, an 80 percent scale replica of the wall will be brought to Suffolk from Oct. 14 to 17 for the public to see.

R.W. Baker Funeral Home, as part of its yearlong celebration of its 125th anniversary, has arranged and funded the visit by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute.

“We wanted to do something that gave back to the community, something that people would be excited about,” funeral home vice president Blake Baker said. “We began working on this idea about eight months ago.”

This tribute travels the country each year and the Suffolk stop will not only be the only stop in Virginia, but will also be the only stop in the mid-Atlantic.

Baker saw this project as a perfect fit to part of the funeral home’s mission of aiding military families.

R.W. Baker and Co. Funeral Home is part of the Veterans and Family Memorial Care, a network of funeral homes across the country that works with veterans organizations to provide such things as cell phones to troops overseas and military funeral rights to service personnel and veterans.

“When we came across this idea, we started talking about what it would take to get the wall here,” Baker said. “We’re very excited about having the opportunity to bring this to Suffolk.”

In addition to the wall, the event will also feature memorials honoring World War II, Korea, 9/11, police and firefighters as well as a “Cost of Freedom” memorial.

Due to the number of items, the challenge for Baker was finding a location large enough to house the event, but also to accommodate the estimated 30-40,000 expected visitors.

“We finally settled on Bennetts Creek Park because it was able to provide the electrical and other needs,” Baker said. “Being that we are such a military community and located so close to Norfolk, we could easily surpass the estimates.”

Already having paid for the tribute’s arrival, the funeral home is now seeking other individual and corporate sponsors to help cover some of the other event’s expenses.

A wide-range of sponsorship packages are available and anyone interested should contact Baker by calling the funeral home at 539-4691.

“We wanted to announce it this early to make sure anyone who wanted the chance to join on could,” Baker said. “Right now, we are working to get this event off the ground and make it happen.”