A Vietnam Veteran’s Experience Bringing the Moving Wall to His Hometown
Posted: June 16, 2022
It was a long journey to bring the Moving Wall to Randolph, but for Vietnam Veteran Emerson Crooks it will be well worth it.
“I am so happy and so pleased for this community to bring the names of people like Mike Poliquin and the rest of the five squad members I lost in one night on August 19th. We’re going to be right here in my own neighborhood. That’s very impactful, and impactful to me.”
The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC that has been traveling the country since 1984 as a means of bringing the experience to those who can’t go to Washington. Crooks first embarked on his mission of bringing the wall to Randolph five years ago with support from his comrades at VFW Post 7333. One of the big advocates for the program was fellow Veteran Jack Sassaman, who was post commander supporting Crooks with his vision of making the project a reality.
Unfortunately, Sassamann passed away in 2020 and the pandemic began, at which point Crooks started to feel like he was hitting a metaphorical wall. But he was determined to see it through. While chatting with Senator Anthony Bucco last year he was offered some words of encouragement. Soon after, he attended another stop for the Wall and without telling anyone, signed their Post 7333 to be a sponsor. When they discovered this, he reassured them, “Don’t worry-we have Senator Bucco!” With VFW Post 7333 Vice Commander Bill Menzel now leading as program chairperson, the project pressed on.
Coordinating the program has been a huge undertaking that involves widespread community support. The County College of Morris (CCM) will be the hosting location for the event taking place from Thursday, July 7th until Monday, July 11, 2022. Senator Bucco was instrumental in getting CCM and many others involved.
“It really is an honor and a privilege to be able to do this for our veterans and gives us the opportunity to do something for you after what you have done for us and for this country,” stated CCM President Dr. Anthony Iacono during a press conference held on March 9th.
In his closing remarks of a speech he gave at the press conference, Crooks said, “I speak at schools sometimes and I tell the young people I visit the Wall every year with my Veteran comrades. I go to the Vietnam Wall and there’s a lot of people there… a big crowd. I go over to the WWII (memorial) and it’s less. And then I go to the WWI (memorial) and there’s no one. And what I say to the kids, I say I come to you and I plead to you that don’t let what happens to WWI Memorial happen to the Vietnam Memorial. Not everyone has a chance to go to DC to see it, so the reason we bring it here is so the children in the neighborhood and all the folks in the neighborhood can see it. And see how emotional, how dramatic (it is). When you look at the names on there, next time you go to Giants stadium… and there’s 60 or 70,000 people, you look around. That equates to what’s on that wall. That’s a lot of people.”
The Moving Wall program is being funded and staffed entirely by donations and volunteers. Supporting organizations include Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, Disabled Veterans of America, Randolph Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club of Randolph, the Randolph Township Police Department, the Morris County Commissioners, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, the American Red Cross, Lake Hopatcong Elks #782, Catholic Charities USA, Warriors’ Watch Riders, and the NJ State Legislature.