Traveling Vietnam memorial stops in Huntsville
The Wall that Heals â" a near replica of the actual Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. â"will be d isplayed at John Hunt Park Fairgrounds in Huntsville from Nov. 1-4.
It will be open 24 hours a day.
Huntsville is among the first to host the recently expanded traveling exhibit that honors the more than 3 million Americans who served in the armed forces during the Vietnam War. It contains the names of the 58,000 service members who gave their lives during the 11-year conflict.
Built in 1996 with contributions from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the same organization that erected The Wall in Washington D.C., the free exhibit is designed to heal veterans, connect communities and educate future generations about this important time in America's history.
The Wall that Heals and its accompanying Vietnam-related education center will be located just north of the Veterans Memorial Museum on Airport Road. Visitors can also tour the museum and view a large collection of Vietnam War-era memorabilia that will be displayed in the nearby Jaycee Communi ty Building during their visit to the Wall that Heals. These additional sites will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
At 375 feet in length and 7.5 feet high at its tallest point, the Wall that Heals is a three-quarter scale model of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. For the first time since the Wall that Heals was enlarged, visitors will be able to do name rubbings of individual service members.
The education center includes a digital photo display called âHometown Heroes,â which localizes the exhibit by honoring Tennessee Valley service members listed on the wall as well as local veterans who returned from Vietnam and later died as a result of their service. A map of Vietnam, chronological timeline, videos that teach about the history and impact of The Wall, and a collection of items left at the memorial in D.C. are included to help visitors better appreciate that period of history.
Educating young people about the Vietnam War is of particular importance to Joh n Perry, chairman of the Wall that Heals-Huntsville project.
âWe have been told that the Vietnam War isn't taught so much in schools anymore so this may be one of the only opportunities they get to learn about that time in our history and about those who served,â Perry said.
About 1,200 students are scheduled to tour the exhibit, which will be led by Medal of Honor recipients Mike Rose and Mike Sprayberry, who both did tours in Vietnam.
âWe are truly blessed to have not one, but two Medal of Honor recipients here to talk to the children about their experiences in Vietnam 50 years ago,â he said. âThis is an excellent opportunity for them to show our children that they are proud of their service.â
The Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1067, will host the exhibit and provide many of the counselors who will be present at the site 24 hours a day while it's in Huntsville.
âAttitudes toward our Vietnam vets have chang ed for the better,â Perry said. âBut we may have veterans who don't want to be around crowds and may want to come after everyone is gone. We want to make sure we have a Vietnam vet here to greet them in case they want to talk or need support.â
Working in conjunction with the city of Huntsville to prepare John Hunt Park, the initial funding for the Huntsville-based project was provided by state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison. From set up to tear down, the entire project cost $70,000 and was paid for through donations from local veterans organizations, area defense contractors, community and church organizations and individual donors.
Although visitors are welcome to start touring the exhibit today, as soon as it is ready, The Wall that Heals officially opens at 8 a.m. Thursday and will close at 3 p.m. Sunday.
On Saturday, Joe Galloway, a Vietnam veteran and author of âWe Were Soldiers,â and Brig. Gen. John Stewart, a Vietnam veteran and former astrona ut who now lives in Huntsville, will speak about their experiences in southeast Asia during a free lecture series from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To learn more about the Wall that Heals, go to http://twth-hsv.com/.
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