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Storme Vanover grew up with the Vietnam War playing on the family’s black and white television every night.
Her foster brother served his country during that war and Vanover still vividly remembers traveling with her family to meet him at the Detroit Airport where police officers held back the crowds from mobbing the soldiers.
“People were throwing tomatoes and screaming things like ‘baby killers’ at them and the soldiers didn’t know what was going on,” Vanover said.
Vanover said she knows other families had those same experiences and that’s what prompted her to work on getting one of five Vietnam Veterans Memorials that travel the country to come to Williamstown this summer.
The traveling exhibit will be in Grant County from July 10 through July 15 at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North in Williamstown. Opening ceremonies will be held at 7 p.m. on July 10 and closing ceremonies will be held at noon on July 15.
It will be escorted from Pikeville to Grant County by a group of Marine Riders.
The memorial is a 3/5th scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It is 300 feet long and is six feet tall at its center. It was created by the Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard, Inc.
Vanover approached the city about bringing the exhibit to town.
Williamstown agreed to pay the $6,000 fee and are hoping to offset that with donations from organizations and the county or other cities.
“I think it’s neat that we’ll be able to bring this to the county, and especially that it will be at the hallowed grounds of the Veterans Cemetery,” said Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner.
The memorial will be guarded 24 hours a day while it is in Grant County and thousands of visitors are expected to see it throughout the week.
“We believe we will pull visitors from Owen, Pendleton, Scott and Harrison counties, as well as Northern Kentucky and we could see upwards of 10,000 per day,” said Skinner.
The exhibit will be lighted and will be visible from Interstate-75.
No smoking is allowed at the wall and cell phones must be turned off as signs of respect.
Because of the large numbers expected to attend, community volunteers are needed to assist with guarding the memorial, shuttling visitors in golf carts, registering guests, parking and helping visitors locate names on the wall.
Local coordinators for the event include: Lamar Fowler (859-824-3355) who will work with volunteers and Rhonda Fields (859-824-1824) and Vanover (859-823-0129) who are organizing grief counselors.
The memorial contains 58,178 names, including four veterans from Grant County.
Vanover owns Country Heart gift store on Main Street in Williamstown. She also volunteers for the city on the Williamstown Festival Committee and organizes Derby Day and Marigold Day.
More guests in the community brings the potential for more business, but bringing the memorial to Williamstown is personal for Vanover.
As the Vietnam War dragged on, she voluntarily signed up the serve in the military but the war ended before she was deployed. Instead, she wore a bracelet every day for seven years with the name, Comm. Raymond A. Voden, engraved on it.
Voden was a POW (prisoner of war). When he finally came home, she stopped wearing the bracelet.
“It’s 40 years later, but for many that war is still as real today as it was then,” Vanover said. “There’s a lot of emotion still attached to this war. It was the first one brought right into your living room.”
Skinner said the city saw the memorial as a way to give citizens an opportunity to see something they may not be able to otherwise.
“We just wanted to pay our respects to those service men and women and their families for the sacrifice,” Skinner said.
“The families of those that lost loved ones deserve respect. Kids today don’t know what happened back then and they need to know so it doesn’t happen again,” Vanover said.