• 63°

Wall coming to Suffolk

Marine Corps Corporal Marvin Smith, a Suffolk native, was born April 15, 1946. He was deployed to Vietnam on May 17, 1967 and was killed in action seven months later.

John Kendrick Hutton, a Suffolk native, was born Sept. 18, 1942. At the age of the age of 24, he was deployed to Vietnam as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He never made it to his 25th birthday — he was killed in action on Aug. 11, 1967.

Although the two men may never have known each other, both are forever memorialized in the black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that sits in Washington, D.C. Smith’s name can be found on panel 32E, line 15, while Hutton’s name is found on panel 24E, line 100.

These men are just two of the Suffolk and Nansemond County veterans killed during Vietnam, and just two of 58,267 names listed on the hallowed memorial. Now, thanks to a local business, an 80-percent scale of the wall will visit Suffolk in October.

R.W. Baker Funeral Home, as part of its yearlong celebration of its 125th anniversary, has arranged and funded a three-day visit by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, scheduled for Oct. 14-17.

“We wanted to do something that gave back to the community, something that people would be excited about,” funeral home vice president Blake Baker said. “We began working on this idea about eight months ago.”

The tribute wall travels the country each year. The Suffolk stop not only will be the only stop in Virginia, but also will be the only stop in the mid-Atlantic. Baker saw this project as a perfect fit with the funeral home’s mission of aiding military families.

R.W. Baker and Co. Funeral Home is part of the Veterans and Family Memorial Care, a network of funeral homes across the country that works with veterans organizations to provide such things as cell phones to troops overseas and military funeral rights to service personnel and veterans.

“When we came across this idea, we started talking about what it would take to get the wall here,” Baker said. “We’re very excited about having the opportunity to bring this to Suffolk.”

In addition to the wall, the event will also feature memorials honoring World War II and Korea veterans, victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, police and firefighters. It also includes a “Cost of Freedom” memorial.

Due to the number of items, the challenge for Baker was finding a location large enough to house the event and accommodate the estimated 30-40,000 expected visitors.

“We finally settled on Bennett’s Creek Park because it was able to provide the electrical and other needs,” Baker said. “Being that we are such a military community and located so close to Norfolk, we could easily surpass the estimates.”

Already having paid for the tribute’s arrival, the funeral home is now seeking other individual and corporate sponsors to help cover some of the event’s other expenses.

A wide range of sponsorship packages are available. Anyone interested should contact Baker by calling the funeral home at 539-4691. “We wanted to announce it this early to make sure anyone who wanted the chance to join on could,” Baker said. “Right now, we are working to get this event off the ground.”