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Traveling Vietnam wall arrives this week

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On panel 54 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, you'll find the name of Edmond Alexander Jablonsky Jr., who died in Vietnam May 3, 1968, leaving behind his wife Pat and a 19-month-old daughter.

He is still missed after all these years, says his wife Pat, who is now remarried and living in Delta.

Shortly before his death, he and his young family enjoyed R&R in Hawaii. It was a bittersweet reunion, filled with angst about the uncertain future Ed faced in Vietnam. But while there, they received word that Ed, a career Army officer, was to be moved from the DMZ to serve as an aide to General Creighton Abrams. He was on the helipad at Camp Carroll, Vietnam, en route to Saigon, when he and his first sergeant were hit by an enemy round. He was picked up by helicopter and taken to a field MASH unit in Qwang Tri, where he had time to write a letter home assuring Pat he was just slightly wounded. "I'm having surgery in the morning, but I'm okay," he wrote. Unfortunately he died on the operating table.

Back home in Texas, Pat was still suffering from jetlag after flying home from Hawaii with her 19-month-old daughter. When the front doorbell rang, she had no clue of the devastating news she was about to hear. "When I opened the door that morning, and looked through the screen door and saw polished patent leather shoes, I slammed the door shut," she recalls.

Edmond died at the age of 24, "as a result of a needless and pointless conflict," Pat says. "What a waste of life and his many talents."

Pat says she has always been a supporter of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, even when opposition mounted against the undergraduate architecture student who won the design competition. "The creator was Maya Lin, whose family was from China," Pat says. "Many Americans objected to an Asian having anything to do with the wall. It was very emotional ... so many Vietnam vets who thought the idea was just horrible were angry and bitter."

Despite the controversy, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is today one of the most frequently visited memorials in Washington, D.C. It honors over 58,000 servicemen and women who gave their lives in service in the Vietnam Conflict.

Those who haven't had the privilege of visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in the nation's capitol will have an opportunity to visit a replica that will be erected in Confluence Park June 6-9.

A motorcycle escort will accompany the wall from Montrose to Confluence Park via Confluence Drive (the truck bypass). The escort will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Der Wienerschnitzel/Shell Station in Montrose. Any motorcyclist is welcome to join.

The wall will be erected Thursday morning, and an opening is ceremony is scheduled at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 6. The wall will remain open 24 hours a day, free of charge, through closing ceremonies Sunday afternoon.

Among the dignitaries expected for the opening ceremony are keynote speaker Cork Powell, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of two Purple Hearts.

At 3 p.m., Thursday the 75th anniversary of D-Day will be observed. This day marks the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, which resulted in Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany's control during World War II. The ceremony will conclude with a flyover of a World War II vintage aircraft. The Commemorative Air Force, Rocky Mountain Wing, will then land the plane at Blake Field in North Delta, where rides will be available for a fee Thursday and Friday.

Following a POW/MIA ceremony at 4:30 p.m., veterans and their families will be treated to a barbecue in the Lions Club Pavilion at Confluence Park. This event is free for veterans, but tickets are required. They'll be available all day Thursday at the hospitality tent.

The Salute to Armed Forces Festival continues Friday, June 7, with a remembrance ceremony at 10:30 a.m. This solemn event will be repeated at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 8. The names of those still missing in action in Vietnam will be read, followed by a 21-gun salute.

At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, a veterans' poker run starts at Harley Davidson in Grand Junction. Motorcyclists will travel over Grand Mesa with stops at Mesa Lakes Lodge, The Pondy in Cedaredge, Paonia American Legion Post and finally, CB's Tavern, where a section of the street will be closed off for final card and "after party."

At 1 p.m. Friday, "Scramble for the Wall," a four-person golf tournament, kicks off at Devil's Thumb Golf Course.

In Confluence Park, live music starts at noon. The line-up includes Black Canyon Barbershop Quartet, noon to 1 p.m.; Landward Rogues, 1 to 3 p.m.; Alterior Motives, 5 to 7 p.m.; Tim Veazey, 7 to 9 p.m.; and The Scones, 9 to 11 p.m. Donations for The Scones' benefit concert will be accepted for local veterans organizations. Vendors, a beer garden, a veterans' hospitality tent and more will be located in the park.

The Salute to Armed Forces Festival closes Sunday with a veterans pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. and a closing ceremony at noon.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people are expected to visit the wall and participate in the festival over a four-day period.

Event director Mat Gallegos envisions the Salute to Armed Forces Festival as an annual event, perhaps next year honoring Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm veterans.

He adds that an event of this magnitude would not be possible without the support of area VFW and American Legion units, the Delta Elks Lodge, the City of Delta and many other sponsors.

See a complete schedule at facebook.com/Salute Armed Forces.

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