Aug. 5—WHITE HALL — The rain held off, but there still were wet eyes Thursday evening.
White Hall welcomed the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a three-fifth scale replica of the wall in Washington, D.C. emblazoned with the names of the soldiers who didn't make it home from the Vietnam War.
The 300-foot-long wall is an exact scale model of the one in D.C., with every name in the exact place it'd be found on the original. The wall is currently set up next to the baseball field at Trinity Assembly of God church in White Hall.
The project's curators are the Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard, a veteran's awareness organization from Brevard County, Florida.
Doc Russo, the wall manager for VVB, is who travels with the wall to its 18-or-so destinations each year. This wall now travels all over the East Coast, but its original vision was on a much smaller scale.
"It was only going to travel around Florida and Georgia, close to home," Russo said. "Then the phone calls and emails started coming in and now we travel between April and November doing 15 to 18 events every year."
Getting this wall to White Hall was something the town's mayor, John Michael, has been trying to get done for several years. The opportunity to finally make it a reality didn't present itself until he was elected to the office.
Last year was when the town council voted to pursue the wall to come to Marion County and it only took one season to get it here. According to Russo, it's not an easy task to get chosen to house the wall, he usually gets 300 emails per year inquiring about the attraction and can only manage around 18 per season.
But Michael was committed to getting the wall, because he had a personal stake in the Vietnam War. At the opening ceremony for the wall held Thursday evening, Michael recounted the funeral procession for a young man from Farmington who died in the war.
"It stuck with me. I remember as a 10-year-old seeing the funeral going by my house," Michael said. "That has given me a deep respect and brought to light what was really happening over there for me. That really gave me a respect for the veterans."
The reason the wall is here and travels around from town to town is to give the experience of the original wall to those who can't make the trip to Washington, whether that'd be veterans with disabilities, older family members, or those without the means to travel. The travelong wall gives them an alternative to finally say goodbye, visit or seek closure.
To Russo, that's what the project is all about.
"There are a lot of family members that will never see the memorials held for their loved ones. It's a place for guys to go to come and visit a buddy they lost," Russo said. "It's the first step in the healing process and this is something a lot of these guys have carried around for 50 years."
The wall is scheduled to remain up at Trinity Assembly of God Church until Aug. 8 at 9 a.m. when deconstruction will begin. Staff will be available to help visitors find the names of loved ones on the wall throughout the weekend.
by Toni King
© 2022 Toni King, Distributed by Counterpoint Media
Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.