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Mementos left behind at Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Penndel to be preserved in time capsule

by June Portnoy

What do you do with hundreds of irreplaceable mementos left behind to memorialize loved ones who gave their lives to serve in the Vietnam War?

This was the question The Wall in Bucks County Committee faced last July after they coordinated the three-day visit of the Vietnam Traveling Wall at the Penndel Memorial Ball Field on PFC John Dalola Avenue.

According to Ed Preston, Chair of The Wall in Bucks County, an arm of the non-profit Penndel-Hulmeville Memorial Day Parade, Inc., more than 25,000 people came to Penndel last year to visit this traveling memorial.

The Traveling Wall is three-fifths the size of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. It stands six-feet tall at the center and covers almost 300-feet from end to end.

The Wall lists the names of the 58,307 servicemen and women killed during the war.

Although fought in Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War still touches close to home, as 136 Bucks County residents were killed or listed as Missing-In-Action during the conflict.

While people came to Penndel to pay tribute to loved ones whose names appeared on the Wall, they left hundreds of memorabilia along the base of the Wall, such as pictures, obituaries insignias, Purple Hearts and even a full military uniform worn during the war.

Ed recounted the story of a man who had been wearing an MIA bracelet for 47 years. “The man took this bracelet off for the first time in over four decades on July 14th, 2017 and left it at the Wall.

Ed spoke about another man who dropped off a framed story he had written about the men in his platoon who were killed while fighting in Vietnam.

This man brought a copy of the same framed story each of the three days, and each day he left it at the Wall.

“These mementos are treasures that deserve to be preserved for future generations to see,” explained Ed.

Therefore, the Wall in Bucks County Committee decided to do just that by preserving these special keepsakes in a time capsule.The committee, consisting of 13 members, constructed a stainless steel 18” by 18” by 24” capsule.

Ed described how they have taken great steps to keep these priceless memories preserved by using the proper glass, paper and envelopes in which the memorabilia will be stored.

Also included in the capsule will be rubbings from the Wall, listing each of the 136 Bucks County residents who lost their lives during this war.

Prior to sealing the capsule, the oxygen will be removed by flushing the capsule with dry nitrogen to further ensure that everything inside is properly preserved in an airtight environment.

The capsule will be buried on Saturday, May 26th immediately following the annual Memorial Day Parade at the Penndel Memorial Ball Field, the same location where the Vietnam Traveling Wall was displayed a year earlier.

Ed welcomes everyone in the community to attend this burial ceremony. The capsule will be opened April 15th, 2075, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

The Wall in Bucks County Committee officially presented the time capsule, along with all the memorabilia to be stored inside, to the Penndel Council during their work session on April 9th.

Since the official minutes from this session will include the capsule’s presentation to the borough, it will become part of the public record to help make sure the time capsule is opened in 57 years.

The Wall in Bucks County Committee is supplying Penndel Borough with the exact location of this capsule, as well as a pre-written ceremony to use when opening the time capsule.

Ed’s goal is to get the time capsule information in as many records as possible to assure that it ultimately gets opened as scheduled.

“Nine million plus Americans fought in the Vietnam War and yet these vets were the most unappreciated, unaccepted vets when they should have been welcomed back and embraced after the war,” said Ed. “I truly hope that people will have changed their thoughts about them when this time capsule is opened in 2075 and that history books will have been re-written so they are remembered as valued heroes who are never forgotten again.”

PHOTO CAP: This time capsule will contain memorabilia from the The Wall’s visit to Penndel last summer.