A 360-foot-long replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is the centerpiece of a four-day program, called the Cost of Freedom Tribute, starting today at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building.
The tribute, honoring World War II, Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, was organized by Veterans of Foreign Wars Bear Flag Post 1943 in Sonoma.
Dan Parker, commander of Post 1943, will preside at the opening ceremony at 1 p.m. today featuring a military flyover and a placement of wreaths by members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 78 and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 223.
Guest speaker will be retired Marine Corps Major Gen. James M. Myatt.
Firefighters and law enforcement officers will be acknowledged in a ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday.
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the event, with guest speakers including Major Gen. David Baldwin, adjutant general of the California National Guard; Kate O'Hare-Palmer, an Army nurse who served in Vietnam; retired FBI special agent Gordon Perlow; Peter Gravett, California Department of Veterans Affairs secretary; and former Alameda County Fire Chief Sheldon Gilbert.
A computerized service will help visitors find a name on the wall and etch it onto a piece of paper.
The original wall, part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial completed in 1982 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., bears the names of 58,272 American service members who were killed or went missing during the Vietnam War.
It receives about 3 million visitors a year.
A Veterans Administration information van will be on site during the tribute to assist or answer questions from veterans.
A veterans job fair will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at Vintage House, 264 First St. East.
For a schedule of ceremonies, go to the website www.vfwpost1943.org. All events are free and open to the public.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.