2018-06-01 / Front Page

‘Heroes wall’ to be unveiled

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – When Derek Volk, president of Volk Packaging on Morin Street, drove through Maine last summer, he and his wife, Sen. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) found themselves in Abbot, located in Piscataquis County, a small town that at last census in 2010 had 714 residents. While there they visited the veterans memorial there, the Veterans Roll of Honor, and for Volk, inspiration struck.

“I looked at this beautiful memorial and I thought, ‘Why isn’t there one of these everywhere?’” Volk said.

On Wednesday, June 6, after months of planning, the Volk Packaging Corporation Heroes Wall will be unveiled. The granite wall, which measures at seven feet tall and 50 feet wide, is covered in etched tiles, each dedicated to individual servicemen and women. The wall has the capacity for 800 tiles, and at the time of unveiling will have about 200.

“When I announced this project in November I thought we’d get 10 by spring. Now we have over 200, and they just keep coming in,” Volk said.

The tile itself costs $150, from which a small portion goes to Get Etched in South Portland for the cost and engraving of the tile. The rest, however, is donated directly to Post 7997 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Old Orchard Beach.

“When Derek reached out to me, he told me about his idea for this wall, and that he wanted it to benefit the VFW. It’s just a wonderful thing to do, and a great way to give back,” said William Day, commander of Post 7997. Day served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, and currently resides in Old Orchard Beach.

“I never served so I feel like I owe them so much,” Volk said. “This is my way of giving back.”

At the unveiling, Volk will present a check to the VFW for the proceeds of the tiles so far, which Volk said will be $10,000. Day said that while a portion of donations from the wall will go toward small renovations to the post itself, such as a new front door and toward making the post more heat efficient, the majority of the funds will go directly toward helping veterans in need. Post 7997 has 196 members.

On the Volk Packaging website, there is an online form for those who want to purchase a tile, which asks for an inscription that can include everything from name, rank and years served to special recognitions, awards and medals. The form also requests a photo of the veteran, either in uniform or a current photograph, to be etched onto the tile. The website also offers “tile scholarships,” making it possible for those who cannot afford a tile to still honor their veteran. These scholarships come from donations from local businesses to pay for the tiles.

“Nobody will get rejected. Go to our site, pay what you can. We’ll make sure every single tile gets made,” Volk said. “I’ll make a hundred calls if I have to.”

According Volk, while the tiles are mostly of local veterans, there are some that have come in from around the country. According to the Heroes Wall Facebook page, there are tiles that honor those who served in a wide range of conflicts, from World War I and II and the Korean War to more recent conflicts in Afghanistan. Tiles also do not have to be post-mortem.

At the top of the wall are slightly larger tiles from the wall’s corporate sponsors. According to the website, primary sponsorships are $2,500 and subsponsorships are $500.

Also interspersed on the wall are tiles that Volk, who refers to himself as a “history buff,” hopes will stir conversation for those who visit the wall.

“There are tiles that feature pictures and information from past conflicts. We have one, for example, that has a picture of landing vessels on the beach at Normandy, with a little information about them,” Volk said. “In my opinion, kids aren’t learning enough about American history. My hope is that kids visiting will see that and ask questions.”

The unveiling will take place at the Volk Packaging facility at 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 6.

“This wall will honor those veterans on the wall, but also those who aren’t,” Volk said. “It’s been an incredible experience.”

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