There are walls, and then there are walls. We refer to “walls” of mundane materials for houses and buildings and then get descriptive when referring to “walls” of water, snow, and even fire. Then there are the more extravagant “walls” that have impacted history—not without controversy—such as the Great Wall of China, The Berlin Wall (also known as the Iron Curtain) or, if President Trump has his way, “the wall” separating the U.S. and Mexico.
Walls can divide and separate people—to keep them out or in. Walls can protect or imprison.
There is a wall that is different than any of these mentioned. A wall that in my opinion stands head and shoulders above the rest. A wall that is a reflection of who we are as Americans. A wall of remembrance. A wall that is really not a wall at all, but a massive engraved list of soldiers known as Vietnam veterans, who fought, lived and died because their country—our country—called upon them to do so in a long ago foreign land and an unpopular war. The world and our nation has tried to forget that war, but it still haunts us, lurking in the minds of all who lived through those years.
Those born after the Vietnam War read about it in history books as my generation has done with wars before our time, but Vietnam was different. Not to overlook the price our soldiers paid in Korea and World Wars I and II, but the Vietnam War is unique in that Americans generally hated the war and could not understand why our soldiers were even there. Families lost loved ones and never really got an answer to the question, “Why?”
Yes, it is true; the nation would like to forget. We would like to forget the war even happened, but we can’t. Too much blood was spilt—our blood. What we need is healing! We must not forget—not our soldiers, nor the lessons this war taught us.
Ava, Missouri did not forget! The community raised over $25,000 to host The Wall That Heals, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica and mobile education center. Many Vietnam veterans and patriots were part of the procession that followed the police escort as the wall made its way past local schools and businesses. The semi-truck carrying the wall was arrayed in art giving allegiance to our fallen veterans with the large bold letters reading, “The Wall That Heals.” The wall, when standing, measures 375 ft long and 7.5 ft high. It contains 58,318 names inscribed on 140 panels. The heaviest panels weigh 85 lbs., but they were outweighed by the heavy hearts of those waving and saluting as the 10-mile procession passed by. The wall was lighted at night and manned with security and counselors 24 hours per day.
As a soldier who served in Vietnam, I was humbly honored and proud to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church during the four-day event. Tears ran down my face as I helped assemble the wall. As I carried the panels and lifted them into place, my mind flashed back to the wounded or killed soldiers I carried in battle. They will always live in my heart.
The Ava Church made many friends in our area and, as a pastor, I enjoyed getting to know and work hand-in-hand with our neighbors. Truly, all who touched the wall were touched by it. Indeed, it was much more than a wall.