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American Veterans Traveling Tribute & Wall Coming to North Branch Park Oct. 13-16

BRIDGEWATER  — Veterans and active members of America ’s armed services travel great distances and make great sacrifices to preserve and protect freedom and liberty.  How far will you travel to honor their contribution?

The American Veterans Traveling Tribute (AVTT) and Traveling Vietnam Wall will be at the Somerset County Park Commission’s North Branch Park/County Fairgrounds, located at 355 Milltown Road , Bridgewater , giving local residents a chance to visit a large-scale replica of the national Vietnam veterans’ memorial. 

The AVTT presents several Cost of Freedom memorials and exhibits, with its centerpiece being the Traveling Vietnam Wall, an 80-percent-scale version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.   Across its 370-foot length, the wall contains every single name etched on the original.  At its apex the memorial is an impressive eight feet tall. The traveling wall was completed in early 1998 and began traveling that year.

The wall will be open to visitors at the fairgrounds starting Thursday, Oct. 13, at 1 p.m., through Sunday, Oct. 16, at 3 p.m. Visitors will be welcome around the clock. The U.S. Veterans Administration, through its Trenton Vet Center , will provide counseling services on site at all times.  The AVTT’s appearance in Somerset County is sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 452.

Chairing the AVTT host committee is Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, who was instrumental in obtaining some of the funding to support the Wall’s visit to Somerset County . “This is a wonderful opportunity to recognize and remember the many service men and women who have given their all in the name of freedom,” Senator Bateman said.

“Hosting the Traveling Tribute in Somerset County is a great honor,” Somerset County Freeholder Director Robert Zaborowski said.  “We want our Somerset County veterans to know we have not forgotten the sacrifices they made.”  The county’s Wall of Honor, which Freeholder Zaborowski spearheaded in 2003, also will be on display. During the opening ceremony on the evening of Oct. 13, county officials will present commemorative medals to current and former residents who served during the Vietnam Era.

Dozens of sponsors, large and small, have helped fund and support the AVTT visit to Somerset County .  They are featured in a souvenir program book at www.co.somerset.nj.us/hservices/veterans/AVTTProWEB.pdf

A summary of the daily events scheduled during the AVTT follows.  For a complete listing of participants and activities planned for each day, visit  the county website at www.co.somerset.nj.us/hservices/veterans/avtt.html

Thursday, Oct. 13 – Opening Day and Ceremonies

1:00 p.m. – The Wall and exhibits open to the public

6:00 p.m. – Opening ceremonies, including invocation and blessing of the Wall, laying of a POW/MIA wreath by Freeholders Robert Zaborowski and Peter S. Palmer, and laying of wreaths by Gold Star Mothers of New Jersey, by the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 27 and by the Department of New Jersey Marine Corps.  Remarks by Freeholder Director Zaborowski, Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi and New Jersey Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs Ray Zawacki.

6:30 p.m. – Somerset County Freeholders’ Presentation of Medals to Vietnam Era Veterans.  More than 80 veterans or family members will attend to receive commemorative medals first issued by the county in 2005.

7:30 p.m. – Music by Tyler Mylroie and Bob Burke of Bridgewater and Joe Reina Sr. and Joe Reina Jr. of Branchburg.

Friday, Oct. 14 – Law Enforcement and First Responders Day

All Day and Evening – The Wall and exhibits open to the public

6:00 p.m. -  Law Enforcement and First Responders Ceremony, including laying of wreaths by a local police chief, fire chief and EMS captain.  Remarks by Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano, Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano, Peapack-Gladstone Police Chief Gregory Skinner and Mutual Aid Fire Coordinator Doug Rue.  Closing tribute by the Somerset County Police Pipes & Drums.

Saturday, Oct. 15 – Military Service Day Honoring All Who Served

All Day and Evening – The Wall and exhibits open to the public

5:00 p.m. – Military Service Ceremony, including laying of wreaths by 13 local mayors to honor the 34 Somerset County residents who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.  Remarks by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Freeholder Peter S. Palmer, Bridgewater Mayor Patricia Flannery, Somerset County Veterans Services Director Peter Niemiec and AVTT Marketing Director Tom Zarcone.  Keynote address by former Freeholder and Park Commissioner John K. Kitchen, 1st Lieutenant , U.S. Army, Retired, who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.

Sunday, Oct. 16 – Ride of Honor and Closing Ceremonies

1:00 p.m. – Ride of Honor past the Wall by Rolling Thunder Inc. with presiding veterans Michael V. Camerino of Somerville, John K. Kitchen of Bedminster and Daniel Puntillo of Somerville

2:00 p.m. – Closing ceremony, including remarks by Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., Congressman Rush Holt, Somerset County Freeholder Patrick Scaglione, Somerset County Park Commission Director Raymond A. Brown, Rolling Thunder President Gary Scheffmeyer and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 452 President John LeGates.

Until 3 p.m. – The Wall and exhibits open to the public