Honoring our fallen heroes.

July 8, 2021

Rick Witteveen, the father of fallen war hero Brett Witteveen of Shelby, places a wreath in front of the wall during a wreath laying ceremony Thursday, July 8, at the Oceana County Fairgrounds. Marine Pfc. Witteveen, 20, was killed by a roadside bomb in February of 2007 in Fallujah serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Witteveen graduated from Hart High School in 2005.

Honoring our fallen heroes.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — Gina Mead, community relations chair for the Oceana County Department of Veterans Affairs, spearheaded the effort to bring the American Veterans Traveling Tribute to the Oceana County Fairgrounds.

“The committee and I in 2019 thought this would be a great idea to bring some veterans’ resources here for our veterans and help educate and possibly bring in some more of our veterans to see what resources are available to them,” said Mead.

The Traveling Vietnam Wall’s visit was rescheduled after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 event.

Sharon Hallack sings “Amazing Grace” during the wreath laying ceremony Thursday. Gina Mead is standing to her left.

“We are just so tickled to have the participation and community support. I just can’t thank everyone enough for making this happen. Without everybody working together, it couldn’t have come together.”

Other locations were initially considered for the wall’s location, such as the Hart High School football field and John Gurney Park. “Then we thought, why not the fairgrounds?”

“Paul (Erickson) has been fantastic. He’s bent over backwards to help us.” Erickson is the Oceana County Agricultural Society president/manager who is in charge of the fairgrounds.

The exhibit is open 24 hours a day until Sunday, July 11, at 3 p.m. following the closing ceremony. Security volunteers on the grounds and local police keep the site secure as well as a security system on the grounds.

It takes four hours to set up the Traveling Vietnam Wall and an additional two hours for the other displays.

The Cost of Freedom Tribute honors our fallen heroes from other wars. “It includes every conflict we’ve seen in the US since World War I instead of being just Vietnam,” she said. There is also a 9/11 memorial.

Mead served six years in the US Navy. She started out working on F-14s as a general maintenance plane captain. “I was on a ground crew. I was in charge of all the general maintenance on jets and launching and recovery of aircrafts for my first year and a half.”

Being a veteran, the wall obviously has special meaning to her.

“It’s so much more than just names, especially seeing those photos (in the exhibit). I know each one was a brother, a husband, a father. The women that served too — a small amount that are on the wall. Just being able to celebrate those and make sure that they are not forgotten. I take it as an opportunity to educate – an opportunity for the next generation to learn from something that happened in our history and make sure our veterans are never treated that way again.”

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