By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM, N.H. — The town is joining the ranks of communities nationwide and making a special effort to honor prisoners of war and military personnel still missing in action.
Town officials are working with the Rolling Thunder veterans organization to establish a display at Town Hall to recognize their service to their country and to make sure they are never forgotten.
The town, through the efforts of Selectman Patrick Hargreaves, is also trying to bring The Moving Wall to Salem next year. It’s a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and has toured the country for nearly 30 years.
Town Manager Keith Hickey said Friday he is seeking estimates for how much it would cost to put the display at Town Hall, right near the automated teller machine on the lower level.
It would include American and POW/MIA flags, a plaque and a black chair. The unoccupied chair is symbolic of the veterans’ missing presence.
“We hope it will be up sometime in March,” Hickey said.
Hickey and selectmen discussed the project at their meeting two weeks ago. They also listened to a brief presentation from Robert McGuigan of Manchester, an Air Force veteran and board member for one of New Hampshire’s two Rolling Thunder chapters.
The organization, with 90 chapters across the company, is best known for its memorial motorcycle rides and dedication to making sure veterans and their families receive the services they need and that POWs/MIAs get the recognition they deserve.
Since World War II, there have been 92,000 POWs and military personnel missing in action, McGuigan said.
“Our main issue is to help educate the American public,” he said.
Salem will be among several Granite State communities to have a display, in addition to approximately a dozen in Massachusetts, McGuigan said Friday.
There are also displays at sporting venues in both states, including Gillette Stadium, Fenway Garden and TD Garden, as well as at baseball parks in Lowell, Nashua and Manchester, he said.
Other New Hampshire town halls include Auburn and Goffstown. Displays are also planned for later this year in Hooksett, Belmont and at Lee USA Speedway, he said.
“It will be a real good honor to have it at our office,” Hargreaves said.
McGuigan said the displays are well received wherever they have been placed.
“People see it and really do appreciate it,” he said. “It really helps the families of POWs.”
It’s hoped the town will receive donations to make the project happen, Hickey said. Hargreaves said it will cost about $15,000 to bring The Moving Wall to town.
“I’m going to be reaching out to some veterans organizations in town to see if they would be willing to underwrite the cost,” Hickey said.