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Washburn hosting traveling veterans tribute in August

WASHBURN, Maine — Larry Harrison of Washburn entered the U.S. Air Force at the end of the Vietnam War and said he has always remembered what is was like seeing the caskets of servicemembers coming back to the United States.

“I remember seeing all the transfer cases stacked up. That was really a chilling experience to see that,” Harrison said.

Emery Poitrow of Ashland was one of 38 Aroostook County men who died in the Vietnam War. The Washburn Rotary Club is bringing the American Veterans Travelling Tribute Wall to the town’s August Festival this summer to honor the lives of those 38 men and all U.S. military veterans. (Courtesy of Washburn Rotary Club)

That experience is part of Harrison’s inspiration for helping bring the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Wall to Washburn during the town’s annual August Festival. The goal is to host the wall as a remembrance for military veterans, and specifically the 38 men from Aroostook County who died in the Vietnam War.

“We’re highlighting the 38 from Aroostook and all Vietnam veterans,” said Larry Harrison, a member of the Washburn Rotary Club and scoutmaster for Washburn’s Boy Scout Troop 177.

Harrison, the Washburn Rotary and American Legion Oscar Dow Post 48 are collaborating to bring the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Wall to Washburn Aug. 14-18.  

It’s an effort that grew out of the Washburn Rotary and Scout Troop’s renovation work at Washburn Area Veterans Park r.renovation work at Washburn Area Veterans Park last year.

The American Veterans Traveling Tribute organization brings a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to events and tributes around the country that is 80 percent the size of the original. At 360 feet long and 8 feet tall, it has all of the 58,320 names of American service members who died and went missing during the Vietnam War.

The tribute wall will be set up in the soccer field at Washburn Elementary School. Harrison said he is planning with regional veterans groups to have a motorcade escort with the wall from the University of Maine at Presque Isle to Washburn.

There will be ceremonies at the wall each day of the August Festival and it will be open to the public during daytime hours.

Thirty-eight men from Aroostook County died in the course of military service in Vietnam, Harrison said. Every week leading up to the festival, Harrison plans to post the names and information about three of the 38 men on the Washburn Rotary Club’s Facebook page.

Harrison spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force as a service specialist, working in lodging management, and in the honor guard at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, beginning at the end of the Vietnam War.

He has also visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. in Washington, D.C., eight times, often with a group of Boy Scouts, and said he thinks the traveling wall will offer a good opportunity for the region to visit and pay their respect during the August Festival.  

“We’re hoping to have a big turnout.”

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