Clovis High students help put together veterans tribute at school

cannon Connections: Tony Bullocks Clovis High School football player Sergio Hernandez checks to be sure a panel of the Vietnam Wall Memorial replica is level before it is anchored Friday morning.

By Sharna Johnson: Cannon Connections

The steady clanging of mallets hitting metal stakes and shouting voices mingled with the low roar of the wind Friday as the Clovis High School football team labored to erect panels bearing the names of Vietnam casualties.

They were working in the northeast corner of the campus to erect American Veterans Traveling Tribute memorials.
High winds forced organizers to reconfigure display locations, centering the 80-percent sized Vietnam Wall Memorial replica east to west instead of the north to south position they had originally chosen.

Organizer and CHS English teacher Rene Smith said team members had been working diligently for hours to erect the 60-some metal panels on the band practice field. She requested the AVTT come to Clovis so her students could gain a better understanding of the Vietnam War.

“They’ve been hard working,” she said, explaining the football players had turned down snacks and other offerings, forging ahead with their duty. “They don’t even want to take a break.”

Smith said sandbags were being added to anchor support beams for the panels, and flags likely would not be flown until Saturday, when winds are expected to calm.

“It’s something for a good cause, and I don’t mind it at all,” said 10th-grader Michael Grooms as he waited to assist his teammates install a new panel.

Vladimir Draper and Charlie Greene stood holding a panel, good-naturedly waiting as their teammates prepared a spot on the 370-foot track it was to go in.

“Just the wind,” Draper said smiling, and explaining everything else was going well.

Junior Morris Sharp III, a member of Smith’s class, said he was waiting for the panel bearing the name of his assigned person to be unloaded.

Sharp and fellow advanced placement English students in Smith’s class are assigned a project to research a name from the wall and find out about that person’s life.

John Henry White was from Honolulu. He died Dec. 12, 1965. Sharp said he hasn’t been able to locate the soldier’s family but has been able to find out some details about the man.

Studying the Vietnam War has shown him things he didn’t realize before, Sharp said. “Like how bloody it was and how we weren’t getting anywhere. Neither side was winning.”

Clovis resident Steve Harmon stood by, watching the panels rise and stand, one-by-one.

A Vietnam veteran who served in Chu Lai from 1969 to 1970, Harmon said he hopes to find the name of his commanding officer, killed with 11 others in a helicopter crash.

Harmon said his time in Vietnam was busy and didn’t leave much time for thought.

“I didn’t have much time to think about it… (Now) I just think it was the largest waste of time and lives in American history. Don’t get me started,” he said.

Likewise, resident Ronald Cooper, a Gulf War veteran, walked the length of the wall, watching as it was brought erect.
“I believe in this wall and want to help in anyway I can,” he said. “I just wish the wind would stop.”

The memorial will remain open 24 hours a day through Tuesday.