Paying tribute to veterans

The American Veterans Traveling Tribute (AVTT) Vietnam Memorial Wall will be arriving in Benson on Sept. 16 for a five-day “Heroes’ Welcome” commemoration.

BENSON — The American Veterans Traveling Tribute (AVTT) Vietnam Memorial Wall will be arriving in Benson on Sept. 16 for a five-day “Heroes’ Welcome” commemoration.

Along with the Vietnam Wall, AVTT is debuting its Afghanistan & Iraq Warrior Tribute, as well as monuments commem-orating other conflicts, starting with WWI and moving through history to include Desert Storm, the USS Cole Attack and much more.

“We’re calling this event ‘A Heroes’ Welcome: the Cost of Freedom Tributes from 1914 to present day,’” said Najayaah Many Horses, one of the event organizers. “The 9-11 attacks are also included in this. Never before in the history of AVTT’s traveling tributes have all of these monuments been on display at the same time, at the same place,” Many Horses added.

“It’s a huge honor that Benson was selected for this, and we look forward to showcasing these extraordinary monuments to the community while honoring all veterans.”

The 360-foot Vietnam traveling wall replica is modeled after the wall in Washington D.C. Eight-feet tall at its apex, the AVTT wall is the largest of three traveling Vietnam monuments.

Sponsored by Benson and surrounding communities, the multiple tributes arrive in Benson on Sept. 16 and will be assembled the following day at 8 a.m. Volunteers are needed to help with the assembly, as the goal is to have the project completed by noon.

Vietnam War veteran Michael Marks served as a Navy Corpsman in the war. He lost two brothers to Vietnam and a third was gravely wounded.

“There were three of us in Vietnam at one time in 1969,” Marks said. “The Vietnam memorial wall means a lot to me. I try to raise funds to help pay for the traveling walls when they come into communities,” he said.

As a 20-year Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) volunteer, this is the fifth wall Marks has helped bring to communities through his fundraising efforts.

“This event is for all veterans, and it definitely has state-wide appeal,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the Afghanistan & Iraq memorial when it’s in Benson. I think it’s amazing that Benson has been selected to debut this new memorial.”

With a full slate of activities that extend from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 19, the “Heroes Welcome” tribute features a Missing Man Formation aerial salute around noon, two inspirational keynote speakers in Vietnam veteran Bob Wieland and Green Beret John Arroyo, and the renowned Voices of Service quartet, a show-stopping group that wowed judges when they appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2019.

Through collaboration between the Benson Chamber of Commerce, City of Benson, veterans organizations, businesses and volunteers, Benson will be honoring all veterans through the community’s first-ever “A Heroes’ Welcome” with multiple American Veterans Traveling Tribute monuments.

“Obviously, Saturday, Sept. 19th is our biggest day because of the activities we have scheduled for this,” Many Horses said. “Regardless of what day people decide to come by to see these incredible monuments, we hope all of you stop by and pay tribute to our veterans.”