BENSON — The community of Benson will be hosting a five-day event when the American Veterans Traveling Tribute (AVTT) Vietnam memorial wall rolls into town on June 24.
The wall, which honors our nation’s military and Vietnam War veterans, will be assembled on June 25 at the San Pedro Golf Course. Members of the public are welcome to stop by and view this 360-foot long replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. Eight-feet tall at its apex, the AVTT wall is the largest of three traveling Vietnam Wall memorials, and the most visited of the replicas, said Najayyah Many Horses, event and membership manager for the Benson Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re looking for 15 volunteers to help with the assembly on June 25th, which starts at 8 a.m. and is expected to take about three or four hours to complete,” Many Horses said. “Volunteers are also needed to help dismantle the wall at 3 p.m. on June 28. “All volunteers must be 18 or older.”
Once assembled, the public is invited to stop by the golf course to view this moving tribute, read the A-frames that reflect timelines and statistics of the Vietnam War and remember those who lost their lives for the country.
“The memorial wall will be on display through 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 28th. Our big fanfare day is June 27, with a lineup of activities that start at 9 a.m. and go until 9 that evening,” Many Horses said.
“We’re going to have a fly over by the Arizona Air National Guard, a missing man formation at noon, the Voices of Service military group will be performing and as a keynote speaker, we’ll have Vietnam Veteran Bob Wielder, a double amputee. There will be vendors and all kinds of activities for the community’s enjoyment. We have an excellent program planned for this tribute to our veterans.”
Many Horses said the chamber is organizing the event as a thank you to the military and to recognize and honor veterans, especially Vietnam War veterans.
“This event is something I started thinking about last year,” she said. “Our Vietnam War veterans were treated badly when they returned home from the war, and we want to let them know how much we appreciate their service. We are very passionate about this event and believe, in spite of all the coronavirus concerns, it’s going to come together for us.”
So, with no budget — the wall alone costs $8,000 — Many Horses and her assistant, Pat Myers-Sepulveda, dug in their heels, rolled up their sleeves and started coming up with ideas to raise money.
“‘Rally for the Vets’ is where the community can raise money in support of the Vietnam Wall and all the surrounding activities that we’re organizing,” she said. “The idea behind the rally is to form teams that range between eight and 10 people, and ask each team to collectively raise $1,000,” Many Horses said.
“Choose a fun team name, come up with a slogan and team colors and post your progress on our chamber Facebook page. It’s your opportunity to post photos and be braggadocious about how much money you’re raising for a great cause.”
Many Horses and her assistant, Myers-Sepulveda have also been working on an event program keepsake.
“This keepsake is amazing,” Myers-Sepulveda said. “It goes far beyond an advertising booklet. It features stories, essays, poems and pictures, all celebrating our veterans. This is a full-color magazine, with very moving journal entries by a Vietnam War veteran interspersed throughout the program.”
The advertising deadline for the program book is May 15, Myers-Sepulveda said.
Advertising costs range from $50 for a business card-sized ad to $1,500 for a centerfold layout. Those wishing to advertise in the program should call Myers-Sepulveda at 405-921-6627.
“The chamber of commerce is organizing this event, with one of our volunteers, Suzzi Wells, as a key person in the magazine’s success,” Myers-Sepulveda said. “She single-handedly went out into our community and sold space in the program book, and did an outstanding job.”
While the chamber of commerce has made some progress in its fundraising efforts, the organization is still looking for sponsorships.
Chamber organizers estimate that the event’s cost will come in around $25,000, and are putting their faith in sponsorships, ad sales and community participation to help offset the cost.
“Pride Drilling, a Willcox-based well drilling company, is our title sponsor, and we are so grateful for their support,” Many Horses said.
Sponsorships of all levels are still available. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We believe that people from all over the state, and even surrounding areas, will come to Beson to see this amazing wall, honor our veterans and enjoy the activities that we’re planning on June 27,” Myers-Sepulveda said. “We urge all of you to mark your calendars and come join in the camaraderie and pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans.”