By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP — Vietnam veteran Sol Bidding made a vow to his fallen war comrades: “I would not forget my brothers and sisters, and I would not let my nation forget them.”
Bidding, 69, of Coal Township, and fellow veterans of Coal Township and Shamokin will make good on his promise when “The Moving Wall,” a traveling replica half the size of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., comes to the area in May 2014.
“They’re my brothers and sisters,” Bidding said of the roughly 62,000 people listed on the wall, including seven from the Shamokin and Coal Township area. About 28 names from Northumberland County are on the wall. One hundred members of Bidding’s Marine Corps unit also are on the memorial.
The Moving Wall travels the country from April through November of each year, spending about a week at each site. It has toured the country since 1984. The moving wall was the brainchild of John Devitt, who came up with the ideas after attending the 1982 memorial dedication in Washington.
Devitt was so moved by the memorial, he vowed to share the experience with others who could not get to Washington.
Bidding said the mobile memorial’s visit to the Shamokin area “is a healing,” he said. “It’s an emotional thing for Vietnam vets and an awesome display.”
Bidding is part of Soldiers Circle Veterans, which has teamed with Shamokin American Legion Post 73 in the effort. Together, the groups must raise about $2,500 as a down payment for the wall’s visit.
The funds, in total $5,000, cover transportation and insurance of The Moving Wall, Bidding said, as well as room and board for about four employees who come with the monument.
In addition, the organizers must raise about $1,500 to build a 265-foot-long walkway for disabled and mobility impaired to see the wall, which will be on display in the Tharptown Community Park on Center Street in Tharptown, part of Coal Township about a mile north of Shamokin.
The Northumberland County Council of the Arts and Humanities is helping with the fundraising effort as well as the wall’s visit. Bidding also hopes to put together a commemorative book for sale during the memorial’s time here.
Bidding won’t talk about his own time in Vietnam with the Marines, other than to say he was severely injured and almost died.
“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I’m a survivor, and that’s all I am. The people on the wall, they are the real heroes.”