The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall arrived in East Peoria with full fanfare on Wednesday morning.
The Quiet Pride Motorcycle Club of current and former military personnel escorted the memorial, along the East Peoria Police Department, Tazewell County Sheriff's Office and Illinois State Police in a procession down Washington Street.
The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is a 3/5 scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. All 58,272 names of U.S. service members who fought and died in the Vietnam War, and those who are unaccounted for, are included.
Justin Hale and East Peoria Commissioner Dan Decker have quietly worked on the plan to bring the memorial to the city for nearly two years.
"It's a good representation of it," said Decker in an interview with WCBU on Monday. "It does kind of tier down a little bit. The highest point is six feet, and then it goes down on either side. So it should be pretty easy for people to be able to see and make an etching, if they like, of a name on the wall."
The wall will be set up in Levee Park, adjacent to the East Peoria Civic Complex. Though the opening ceremony is scheduled for noon Thursday, Decker said the public is welcome to view the wall once it's set up Wednesday afternoon.
The Thursday ceremony is open to the public. It will include a posting of the colors by the Tazewell Military Rites Team, a performance of the Star Spangled Banner by East Peoria violinist Elise Ahrens, the Missing Man Table and Ceremony by the Pekin Junior ROTC, and remarks by retired Brig. Gen. Clayton Moushon and retired Lt. Col. Hal Fritz, a Medal of Honor recipient from Peoria who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
"This is the way it should be," said Decker. "These people risked their lives. And some of them lost their lives. And they should be recognized for that."
Face coverings and social distancing will be encouraged at the Thursday ceremony.
Community donations funded the wall's East Peoria visit. Excess funds will be donated to the Greater Peoria Honor Flight.
The wall will be disassembled on Sunday afternoon.
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