MILLBURY, Mass. — The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall is a traveling, three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the man who drives it from place to place has to be one of the happiest guys around.
Billy Havalotti has been driving the moving wall for nearly a year and has brought it to Millbury for the Millbury Fire Field Day. Havalotti drove into town on late Monday afternoon, readying the wall for its display Saturday at the Shaw School.
Havalotti was a sergeant in the Marines and was stationed at Camp Pendelton, Calif. and Camp Lejeune, NC as well as 29 Palms in the desert, training Marines on their way to Desert Storm in 1989-90. Having drove for Mobility Resources for quite some time, he was asked to stay on, rather than retire, as the driver for the Memorial Wall.
It is a great job for a semi-retired former Marine sergeant to drive the wall around the country -- one which Havalotti quickly admits he loves.
"What better job is there than taking this wall around to honor our veterans?" Havalotti asked.
Every year, the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall makes up to 20 weekend stops around the country. Since its inception in 1990, it has visited over 200 communities in the United States.
The faux-granite replica stands 240 feet long and eight feet high and is inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who died or are missing in Vietnam.
The Wall has become a place of healing and remembrance for all Americans -- regardless of service in the Vietnam War era -- as well as the heroism, courage, and bravery of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who fought. It brings healing to veterans, as well as awareness to younger generations.
So where is Havalotti and the wall heading next?
"We're heading down to Danbury, Conn." he said. "I'm driving the rig down to Orange County Choppers for the night, on the 17th, in the morning motorcycle riders from the Vietnam Vets MC, the Patriot Riders MC as well about 10-15 State Troopers will give me an escort right into Danbury."
Asked how much he seems to enjoy his job, he laughed. "I love it, I get to meet some unbelievable people, the Vietnam vets are always great. I couldn't be happier."
Be sure to check out the semi tractor trailer with the wall on Saturday at the Millbury Fire Field Day.