Bugsy Siegel / Ohio University
The Healing Wall returned to Athens from July 28 to August 1 and was installed in Tail Great Park for everyone to visit. According to the event coordinator, around 5,000 community members were able to share their experiences.
Despite the threat of heat, humidity and rain, there was a regular parade of visitors as they toured the monument. Tail Great Park is located in a large field between the Convocation Center and the Hocking River. The wall is a three-quarter replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) in Washington, DC. Wall travels the country at a mobile education center. The Mobile Education Center is a big trailer full of exhibits. Vic Muschler, site manager and member of the VVMF, said the Education Center would provide visitors with details of the times and some items left on the walls in Washington, DC.
The walls were open 24 hours a day and anyone could visit them. It is run entirely by volunteers. Muschler said it was a major community effort. He added that anyone can volunteer for the wall.
âGoing out and volunteering will be one of the most honored and memorable experiences of your life,â he said.
VVMF member Dean Murphy said he couldn’t have a wall without volunteers. He said 40 to 50 volunteers were needed to install, remove and equip the walls.
The original Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened in 1982 and was designed by Mayarin of Athens. Muschler said the VVMF decided it needed to do a bit of awareness raising by building a scale replica. The VVMF website says the replica was announced in 1996 and is on display in nearly 700 communities nationwide.
âIt is important for all of us to continue to provide this education to those who cannot reach DC,â says Muschler.
Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Ohio Veterans and Director of the Military Student Services Center, Terry St. Peter, was fortunate enough to help his office bring the wall back to Athens in conjunction with the Convention Bureau and visitors to Athens County. I said that. He said the magnitude of the loss represented by the wall must be seen first-hand.
âWe cannot express what it means to have over 58,000 Americans who have sacrificed their lives for our country,â said St. Peter.
Visitors have come for a variety of reasons. To pay tribute to friends and relatives, to pass on knowledge to the younger generation, or simply to integrate history. Vietnamese veteran Dale Perry and his wife Sharon Perry saw the original wall but wanted to take it for their grandchildren to see. Their 11-year-old grandson Collin McKinney thinks walls are cool and has never seen anything like it.
âI think it’s important because it’s named after all the dead who fought for us in Vietnam,â McKinney said.
Gary Wilcox was invited by his neighbor, Karen Lux, to visit the wall. He said the walls were impressive, polished and informative. He believes that the more people know about the Vietnam War, the less likely it is that another war will happen again.
âIf you forget history, you are destined to repeat it,â Wilcox said.
Lux, who volunteered at Wall, said many people don’t understand the Vietnam War.
âThat’s why I think it’s important that we all understand why we can do what we can do today,â she said.
Volunteer Linda Chiki chose to volunteer because her co-brother was killed in Vietnam and her brother-in-law was seriously injured. She considers the wall important so that veterans and their families can see their names.
âIt’s a healing process for people,â she said.
Volunteer Lou Holbus joined the army on Valentine’s Day 1967 and left just before Christmas 1970. He was in Vietnam from August 1968 to March 1970. He said he made friends for life while in the military.
Horvath, along with lawyer David Frey, was the first Vietnamese veteran to join the Athens County Veterans Commission. He thinks it is important to meet on behalf of the people in order to respect those who have never returned from Vietnam.
âWe have to recognize the work of the people who put this in place,â said Horvath.
Volunteer Scott Moody said some of his high school classmates were on the wall. He volunteered because he believed it was important to recognize the people who participated in the war.
Kim Spencer, Veterans Services Officer, Athens County, was at the scene as it was part of her office job to make sure the veterans could help them. His job is to file a claim with the veterans so that they can be compensated.
VVMF is a non-profit organization dedicated to those who participated in the Vietnam War. Muschler said participating in the VVMF is the most prestigious privilege a person can have.