(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Veterans and others from across the Carolinas were recently offered the chance to see a replica of a landmark, up close without having to travel very far, which is often credited with aiding the healing process from the horrors of the Vietnam War.
The Wall That Heals is a faithful reproduction of the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which is three-quarters the size of the original.
The exhibit, which bears the names of the more than 58,000 men and women who lost their lives in Vietnam, was on display Oct. 24-27 at Rock Hill’s BMX Track, one of only three stops in the Southeast in 2019.
It was unveiled on Memorial Day in 1996 by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), and according to the group’s website, the Wall That Heals has visited nearly 600 communities throughout the U.S.
A number of veterans, including those who had served in Vietnam and those who had not, visited the site and served as volunteers to assist visitors and answer questions.
Jentrell Hardy, a Marine Corps veteran originally from Memphis, said he was impressed by the dedication of the people who have come together to bring the wall to communities across the country.
“I think (putting this replica together) requires quite a bit of dedication,” said Hardy. “I think they do a great job of putting things together…I believe that a group like that, caravanning (with) that much information and that much history is important to understand where we came from and where we are right now.”
Matt Meadows, a West Virginia native who now lives in the Charlotte area, said his father fought in Vietnam and he stressed the importance of remembering those who have served in combat.
“I believe that far too often, as wars and conflicts are separated by generations, that the connection to monuments and memorials are neglected and forgotten,” Meadows said.
“The thought becomes that is an old person’s war, not something that affected me. The fact is that they do not realize that a friend or colleague may indeed have been affected by that war.”
Meadows said the plaques and statues that serve as tributes to fallen soldiers are too often passed by and forgotten.
The exhibit also features a mobile education center that includes a multimedia experience, including a timeline of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, photos of soldiers who returned from the war but later died as a result of their time in Vietnam and a Hometown Heroes section, which includes photos and names of local soldiers whose names are on the Wall.
The VVMF website describes the Hometown Heroes section as “part of the effort to put a face to every name on the Wall and for the Wall of Faces.”
Hardy said it’s important to remember the history that goes along with the Wall and learn from it.
“We need to think about what can happen in the future and learn how to adjust from that and not make the same mistakes,” Hardy said.
While the Vietnam War ended many years ago, the effects of it continue to reverberate through the country.
“The truth is that every generation is part of any war and has ties and connections, whether they realize it or not,” Meadows said. “The fact of the matter is that most men and women who served were not aware of what was ahead of them…nor did they have any idea what would be passed down from the next generations after they were gone.”
The VVMF recognizes that visiting the Wall in Washington, D.C. can be a difficult task, especially for veterans, so the group continues to bring the Wall That Heals to local communities.
After visiting Rock Hill, the exhibit traveled to Pooler, Georgia and Stephenville, Texas. The tour makes it’s final stop of 2019, Nov. 14-18, in Columbia, Mississippi.