The Wall That Heals coming Downriver; volunteers needed

A three-quarter scale replica The Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be in Young Patriots Park in Riverview May 28-31. Volunteers are needed to set up and man the three-day exhibit.

Paula Neuman
– SOUTHGATE STAR

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., is called “The Wall That Heals.’’

A three-quarter scale replica of the wall, which is etched with the names of the more than 58,000 American soldiers killed in the war, is coming to Young Patriots Park in Riverview May 28-31. The exhibit will be open 24 hours a day and is free to the public

The original wall was dedicated in 1982, seven years after the official end of the 20-year war that bitterly divided the nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Americans watched on TV as young soldiers in body bags were brought home for burial day after day after day.

The average age of those soldiers was 19. The wall honors those who were killed and the more than three million who served and came home to a public that sometimes received them with scorn and scant support.

The three-quarter scale replica of the wall tours the country now so those who can’t travel to Washington can still experience the memorial, offer their respect and trace the names of the dead. More than 300,000 people visited the traveling Wall That Heals in 2019.

American Legion Post 389 and the city of Riverview are among those sponsoring the effort to bring the wall Downriver.

“The city of Riverview is excited and proud to be the host of The Wall That Heals, and hopes the wall will bring pride and healing to all those who have served, and remembrance from all Downriver for those who gave their lives for our freedom,” said City Manager Doug Drysdale.

The original wall, designed by Maya Ling Lin, a 21-year-old college student, was built by the nonprofit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which also hosts the traveling wall.

“The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is pleased to bring The Wall That Heals mobile exhibit to Riverview to allow local veterans and their families a change to experience the wall and honor and remember those who have served and sacrificed,” said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of the fund. “Hosting The Wall That Heals provides an opportunity for healing and an educational experience for visitors on the impact of the Vietnam War on America.”

Community support is needed to bring the traveling wall to Riverview. More than 100 volunteers will be needed to set it up and take it down, staff the exhibit and guide visitors. Donations also are needed. To volunteer, learn more or schedule a tour for school groups, contact Todd Dickman at 734-281-4219 or tdickman@cityofriverview.com, or visit the Riverview Recreation Department’s Facebook page or www.cityofriverview.com.

The wall replica is transported across the country in a 53-foot trailer, which, when parked, opens with exhibits built into its sides. The traveling wall itself is 375 feet long and stands 7.5 feet tall at its highest point. 

The exhibit center offers digital photo displays of “Hometown Heroes” — soldiers from the local area whose names are engraved on the wall. The fund’s In Memory program also honors Vietnam veterans who came home and died later as a result of their service.

As on the wall in Washington, the names on the traveling wall are listed in chronological order by the day of casualty. The replica, made of synthetic granite, is in a chevron shape like the original wall. 

Lighting allows the names of the fallen to be read or traced day and night. Two fund staff members lead volunteers on site, educate visitors and ensure the reflective atmosphere of The Wall That Heals. Visit thewallthatheals.org to learn more.

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