This is not official: Please note that this is
not an official document of Vietnam Combat Veterans,
Ltd. Instead, this was written because I (past Webmaster
of The Moving Wall site) want to share with you what I have
learned by being a National Park Service Volunteer at The
Wall in DC and performing a similar role at several sites
of The Moving Wall. "A day in
the life of a volunteer" and "I
came to see my Son's name." describe the volunteer's
role. You may use any or all of the suggestions here.
A very special name: Most of the people who come
to The Moving Wall will not be coming to see a big wall of
granite or painted aluminum, but will be looking for one
or a few very special names. I have heard and believe
that many make the trip to either Washington or a Moving
Wall site but then don't find that very special name. They
become overwhelmed with the vastness of the list of names,
they may be afraid to speak for fear of breaking down, or
the tears in their eyes may blur their vision. To persons
already feeling emotional, the shock that the names are not
in alphabetical order can make them give up. Don't let them
go home disappointed.
Prepare for the very busy times: Some preparation
before The Moving Wall arrives can help visitors find names
even if or when you have no volunteers on duty. Make lists
of the casualties from your area: probably 90% of your visitors
will be looking for names of those who grew up close to your
site. If lines begin to form at the computers where people
are looking up names, have one of your volunteers announce
that if people are looking for the name of someone local,
those names may be found from the lists already prepared.
Consider making a sign that states that. Having wall
map papers ready, possibly on the back of general or customized rubbing
papers can greatly assist your busiest times. Your computer
operators can write the panel and line number and make an
X at the rough location on The Moving Wall and let visitors
find the name themselves.
Prepare a list of local names, arranged alphabetically
by last name. Include the hometown, casualty date, and the
panel and line number of the name. Put this list on almost
everything you print, from fancy programs to single-page
handouts. Ask your local penny saver or newspaper to publish
the list-this will also reinforce that the most important
aspect of the Wall is the names. It is my opinion that the
list of names is much more important than pictures or biographies
of the persons who will be making speeches at your ceremonies.
There will be many relatives who will cherish the program
with the name of their loved-one. Your volunteers should
always have a copy of the local name list on their person
to provide quick reference and assistance.
At the base of each panel, make a list of the local
names on that panel, and be sure to indicate the line number.
Use a large font and protect the list from rain with a plastic
sheet protector. Prepare a means to keep the lists in place
in case of wind, but do not attach them to The Moving
Wall with tape.
Identify your local Vietnam War casualties: Many
city and county governments have an agency (or one person)
with a title like "Veterans' Service Agency" or "Office
of Veterans Services". They probably have a list of
casualties from the area for all recent wars, as they usually
provide benefits counseling for widows and families. Many
local chapters or posts of American Legion, VFW, Amvets,
VVA, VVnW, or other veterans groups can help find the names.
Newspaper archives, at the newspaper or public library may
be useful. The Vietnam
Casualty Search Page and The
Wall on the Web can be searched by casualty name, city
name, or other criteria and provide additional details about
the person. Get the spelling of the names right on your lists
-- don't add insult to injury to the families. The computer
databases are probably the most correct source of name spellings,
unless a relative says otherwise.
Dates of casualties: Veterans will sometimes
come to the Wall and want to see the portions of panels that
relate to specific dates. A computer database search for
an exact date can pinpoint a panel and line number. If a
computer is not available, or if they are just interested
in " when I was there " a list of the starting
and ending dates of each panel is available at http://www.TheMovingWall.org/docs/panldate.htm that
you can print out beforehand to have your volunteers carry.
You can never have too many volunteers: At your
busiest times there may be several hundred visitors close
to The Moving Wall. From my experience, 5:30PM to 7:30 PM
on weekday evenings, afternoons on weekends, and just before
and after scheduled ceremonies are the busiest times. Try
to schedule several volunteer Visitor Guides for those times.
Ask your local media to announce several weeks early that
you need volunteers and be sure to provide a contact telephone
number. A letter describing the job can
help prepare volunteers. Give them copies of the Wall
map, even if you can't make
enough for visitors.
Make your volunteers obvious: Try to acquire
bright yellow baseball caps for your Visitor Guides or, at
the least, prepare bright yellow names tags (on paper that
slips into plastic holders) to make your Visitor Guides easily
found. The hats and nametags help visitors know that this
person is there to help them and is not expecting a fee,
tip, or donation. Tell your security persons that if someone
asks them to find a name (and they don't know) to reply, "look
for someone with a yellow hat (or badge)". National
Park Service volunteers at the Wall in DC wear yellow hats
as part of their uniform and the tradition can be carried
to Moving Wall visits.
Tips and donations: ALL of your volunteers should
be briefed that they must not accept tips. Volunteers should
be briefed to politely decline tips and donations but, if
a visitor first offers a tip or donation, the volunteer
may tell them that they may make a donation at the box and
that their donation isn't necessary but will be appreciated.
As described in other Moving Wall documents, a box for donations
can be on the site but it must be a considerable distance
away from the Wall. Money should not change hands near The
name-rubbing papers: A very nice touch is to
prepare name-rubbing papers. They can be either generalized for
The Moving Wall or customized for
your site. Print a couple of masters and keep them clean.
Make sure that photocopies are only made from the masters
so the print will always be legible and clean, as a matter
of respect and dignity. The preamble and post amble from the
Wall are an important message. The sponsor organization's
name, address, and phone number may help you gain visibility
and respect in the community. Wall
maps can be photocopied onto the back of name-rubbing
papers or distributed separately.
Above all The Moving Wall has a very personal meaning
to each visitor. Make sure that your Visitor Guide volunteers
know that The Moving Wall is there for the visitors, not
them. It is not there as a platform for a Visitor
Guide to express his or her opinions about the war, about
politicians, or the VA. The Visitor Guide's job is to help
find names and to listen. However, Visitor Guides
can effectively encourage visitors to talk; while flipping
pages in the directory or leading a person to a name, ask
simply "Was he a relative or a friend?" Sometimes
visitors ask me why I'm asking; I honestly answer, "To
give you an opportunity to talk about him."
Dignity: Your Visitor Guides and security persons
can greatly influence visitors to help maintain the dignity
and solemnity of The Moving Wall. When near the Wall, they
should speak quietly and slowly, which the visitors will
reflect. If a loud conversation begins close to the Wall,
volunteers can hold their finger to their mouth, conveying
a librarian's "shhhh". Smoking and eating are not
allowed close to the Wall. Have signs, ashtrays, and waste
receptacles at the entrances.