On Tuesday, Aug. 27, a labor of love began as The Wall That Heals, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center, arrived at Eisenhower Park under motorcycle escort by Rolling Thunder, American Legion Riders, Fire Riders, Leathernecks, and Patriot Guard Riders, to name a few. It is noteworthy that all of the riders preceding the Mobile Education Center (trailer) were “boots-on-the-ground” during Vietnam. The riders that followed the trailer were Vietnam-Era vets, other veterans and patriots.
Commencement of work to erect The Wall began on Wednesday, Aug. 28 during a torrential downpour. The framework was assembled followed by the addition of simulated granite slabs that spanned a total of 375 feet in length and 7.5 feet high at its tallest point. The opening ceremony followed on that beautiful sunny Thursday morning, Aug. 29, and several wreaths were placed by various organizations: The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 82, Vietnam War Veterans Association, Agent Orange Awareness, Nassau County Military Order of the Purple Heart, Nassau County Veterans Service Agency, and Jewish War Veterans, to name a few. The Wall was open 24/7 with security provided mainly by veterans, and non-veteran groups as well.
Friday evening, Aug. 30, a well-attended Candlelight Vigil was held at dusk as The Wall became illuminated, while the piper from Locust Valley Fire Department played “Amazing Grace.” The Wall continued to be open and available for viewing from Saturday, Aug. 31, until 2:30 pm on Sunday for the closing ceremony.
The 53-foot trailer that carries The Wall That Heals transforms to become a mobile Education Center. The exterior of the trailer features a timeline of “The War and The Wall” and provides additional information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Additional exhibits gave visitors an idea of the collection of items left at The Wall. The exhibit included “Hometown Heroes”, photos of service members whose home of record was from the local area. Additional photos can be seen at www.vvmf.org/thewall.
There was also an “In Memory Honor Roll”—photos to honor local Vietnam veterans who returned home and later died of Vietnam-related illnesses. Two printed directories were available containing the names on the wall alphabetically as well as the “panel” and “row” so that the visitor can easily find their beloved fallen member’s name and do a “pencil etching” as a keepsake.
There is a “The Gold Star Bike” (donated by the American Gold Star Mothers in 2012), a Softail Custom Harley that pays tribute to the mothers who lost sons to the Vietnam War.
Visitors experienced The Wall rising above them as they walked towards the apex, a key feature of the design of The Wall in Washington, D.C. The Wall is comprised of 58,276 names, over 1,500 of which were service members who are Missing In Action to this day (MIA). There are eight women’s names on The Wall, all of whom were nurses. The average age of the soldiers who perished was 22 yrs., 9 mos. The youngest service member listed was only 15 years of age. There are 40 sets of brothers on The Wall, and 3 sets of fathers and sons on The Wall.
“The Wall That Heals” is appropriately named, as there is a lot to be said for the comfort derived by “collective compassion” for the immeasurable loss suffered by the families of the fallen.
—Submitted by American Legion Auxiliary Nassau County