Cemeteries to host replica of Vietnam Memorial

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago will host a half-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and a traveling museum about the Vietnam War Sept. 26-30 at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, 1400 S. Wolf Road, Hillside.

The event is intended to give Vietnam veterans and others a chance to remember, to honor those who were killed or are missing and to learn, said Theodore Ratajczyk, executive director of the archdiocese’s cemeteries.

“We try to do events in our cemeteries so that it’s not the only time people are coming here is to bury their loved ones,” Ratajczyk said. “We really wanted to do something for the community, to let families know Catholic cemeteries are here for them.”

An exhibit such as the wall — a place people go to remember those who were lost — seemed particularly appropriate, he said.

“That’s what cemeteries are about, a place to remember,” Ratajczyk said.

All are welcome to visit the wall, which includes the names of all the soldiers killed in Vietnam. There also will be a display of 1,587 flags, one for each soldier still listed as missing in action from the conflict, and a traveling museum of artifacts collected by a Vietnam veteran called “Through Their Eyes.”

The replica wall will travel to the cemetery in a procession from Drury Lane Theatre and Conference Center in Oakbrook Terrace, escorted by dozens of motorcycles and police cars. The procession, set to start at about 9 a.m. Sept. 26, will pass through Oakbrook Terrace, Oak Brook, Westchester and Hillside, and it will pass several schools.

Students at Divine Providence School in Westchester will be outside with American flags to watch it go by, said Lynn LeTourneau, the school’s principal.

“It’s a part of history that they can experience right in front of them,” LeTourneau said.

The war was at its height 50 years ago, Ratajczyk said, which for elementary school students now is ancient history.

But students are learning that history in school, LeTourneau said, and it’s important for veterans to know that.

“I think sometimes they think they’ve been forgotten,” she said.

The school also will use the procession as an opportunity to pray for those whose names are on the wall, as well as men and women who are serving the country now, she said.

Once the wall arrives at the cemetery, it will be set up by Vietnam veterans, possibly with the help of other veterans, Ratajczyk said, and he expects the display to open at about 3 p.m.

The wall and museum will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. over the weekend, until it moves on at about 3 p.m. Monday. Veterans are welcome to visit any time, day or night.

“A lot of veterans like to come in the peace and quiet of the nighttime,” Ratajczyk said.

There will be daily ceremonies featuring people such as Jim Cornelison, anthem singer for the Chicago Blackhawks, and Wayne Messmer, anthem singer for the Chicago Wolves, and military and police bands and color guards. School and parish groups will also come, Ratajczyk said.

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