"The traveling exhibit provides thousands of veterans who have been unable to cope with the prospect of facing The Wall to find the strength and courage to do so within their own communities, thus allowing the healing process to begin". - Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica & Mobile Education Center
This weekend, I had the opportunity to view the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in my own hometown (free + open to the public). In 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund unveiled a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial which was designed specifically for travel.
Even half-scale, The Wall That Heals is truly impactful.
I've seen the permanent Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C, but this was different. After walking along The Wall myself, I stood back and watched. I watched my neighbors and families that I've known most of my life taking it all in. I watched faces that I recognized from the grocery store and gas station hug one another and hold hands as they found the names of family and friends, supporting one another. I watched young children quietly stand with their parents in front of The Wall, mesmerized. I watched a community, my own community, experience something together.
I watched from a field that I grew up on. A field in a park that I have been to at least a hundred times. I stood and looked at a 250 ft. wall with over 58,000 names on a field that I sat on many a weekend as a kid, covered in a blanket on Fall weekends watching my brothers soccer games. A field I'd stared out at countless times as I hit my serves on the adjacent tennis court throughout middle and high school. A field beside a playground with monkey bars that I couldn't reach.
At 24, I stood on this familiar field and looked out. Later, I walked over to the Mobile Education Center that contained information cases with pictures, letters and objects left at The Wall in D.C. On the other side of this Center were television screens flashing with faces and names of locals who fought in the war. I recognized some of the last names, realizing that I probably went to school with many of the grandchildren of these heroes. Though I didn't have a name to look for on The Wall, I was still deeply moved. Though viewing The Wall in D.C. was emotional, it felt different this time. This time, the heroes were home.