Legacy lives on
OOIDA board member hauls Vietnam Wall for friend.
Doug Smith continued the legacy of a late OOIDA board member when he hauled the mobile version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall this past spring.
Smith, an OOIDA board member from Bountiful, Utah, took over the volunteer role, which was long held by Steve Davenport.
Davenport, a member of the OOIDA Board of Directors since 2011 and a staunch advocate for Vietnam veterans, died unexpectedly on Nov. 8, 2018, at his home in Lewisville, Texas. He made an annual Memorial Day pilgrimage to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., riding a customized 1990 Harley Davidson Softail in honor of his high school friend, Robert Cupp, who was killed in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
His customized Harley displayed the names of the fallen he came to know through the Gold Star Mothers, and the fuel tank resembled an etching from the wall and included his friend Robert’s name as the focal point.
Davenport, who served in the U.S. Army from 1969-71 and the Army Reserves from 1971-75, also hauled the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center to such places as the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.
Recently, Smith volunteered to transport the wall in order to honor fallen veterans, as well as Davenport, who helped arrange bringing the mobile wall to Lewisville in 2019.
“I knew Steve Davenport had done it,” Smith told Land Line Now’s Terry Scruton. “In his absence, I wanted to do it.
“I took the opportunity to volunteer, and they suggested that I be the one to take it to his hometown in Lewisville, and that seemed like a good match to me.”
The mobile exhibit, which is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was unveiled in 1996. It features the names of 58,000 fallen soldiers who gave their lives in Vietnam, as well as photographs, letters written to fallen soldiers and other mementos.
Smith took “The Wall That Heals” from Tulsa, Okla., to Lewisville.
“The Patriot Guard riders congregated (in Lewisville),” Smith said. “There were 60 to 70 motorcycles and probably 20 cop cars. We traveled like it was President Trump going across town. We had all of the intersections blocked, and the cop cars were leap-frogging each other. What an experience. I can compare it with the birth of my first child. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Smith said being able to haul the wall was extremely meaningful to him.
“As far as the Vietnam era goes, I was on the tail end of it and they shut the war down by the time my age group was called up,” Smith said. “I had a high draft number and didn’t even get my feet wet. I did have a friend in school who was a couple years older, and he’s on the wall. He lost his life.”
So Smith wanted to give back.
“It’s the least I could do,” he said. “It was a very reverent experience to be able to honor those men and women. There was one combat nurse who was killed by enemy fire.”
All of the flags waving and displays of patriotism caused him to be emotional.
“It’s Texas, and it comes with a big helping of patriotism. There were a lot of flags waved from the side of the road. A lot of people stood hand on heart or saluting as we drove by.
“I almost ran out of Kleenex, but I got it done.” LL