THE WALL THAT HEALS

We’ll join a group of veterans and their supporters on a road trip across the nation to preserve the memories of Vietnam vets.

Aired on November 11, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

WHEN VIETNAM VETERANS FIRST RETURNED FROM THE WAR, THE PUBLIC'S RESPONSE WAS FAR FROM POSITIVE, AND IT WASN'T UNTIL THE VIETNAM VETERAN MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON, D.C. WAS OPENED TO THE PUBLIC IN 1982 THAT THESE VETS WERE TRULY RECOGNIZED FOR THEIR SERVICE.

IN NOVEMBER 1996, THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND LAUNCHED THE WALL THAT HEALS, A PROGRAM WHERE A 250-FOOT REPLICA OF THE FAMOUS MEMORIAL TRAVELS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY TO HONOR THE 58,000 PLUS MEN AND WOMEN WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THAT CONFLICT.

AND TODAY VIETNAM VETS ARE BEING HONORED WITH THIS REPLICA, WHICH IS BEING ESCORTED BY OVER 300 VETERAN BIKERS.

WE SPOKE TO SOME VETERANS ABOUT THEIR REACTIONS TO THIS HEALING WALL.

WE SKORTED THE TRAILER DOWN HERE WITH THE VIETNAM WALL.

WE KICK STARTED THE EVENT WITH A MOTORCYCLE ESCORT OF THE TRACTOR-TRAILER CONTAINING THE WALL.

WHEN WE BRING THE TRAILER AND THE WALL THAT HEALS INTO A COMMUNITY, WE USUALLY START AT A SEPARATE LOCATION AND WE SKORT IT IN.

WE DO WIT THE BIKES AND THE FANFARE.

MANY OF THE BIKES AT THE FRONT OF THE TRAILER WERE VIETNAM VETERAN, WE WANTED TO HAVE A GREAT SHOWING FOR OUR ESCORT FOR THE WALL.

A LOT OF MOTORCYCLE ORGANIZATIONS, MILITARY, VETERAN, AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS.

WE'VE DONE SEVERAL ESCORTS BEFORE, AND THIS WAS ON THE LARGER SIDE, I WOULD SAY.

THERE ARE SO MANY RIDERS HERE, IT'S UNREAL.

EVERY GROUP THAT I CONTACTED WAS MORE THAN WILLING AND THRILLED TO CONTACT US.

WE FELT THIS WAS SOMETHING WE SHOULD DO.

A GREAT HONOR TO DO THAT.

WE WERE PROUD TO DO THAT.

EVERYTHING WAS WELL COORDINATED.

IT WAS A REALLY NICE RIDE.

TRAFFIC STOPPED.

AND SALUTED, WAVING A SIGN.

THEY HAD THE FIRE ENGINES WITH THE FLAG-DRAPED ACROSS THE BRIDGE.

THAT WAS AMAZING TO RIDE UNDER.

THE STATE POLICE WERE LINED UP SALUTING US.

THAT WAS VERY OVERWHELMING.

ONCE WE ARRIVED HERE AT THE LEGION, THE MOOD OF THE BIKERS WERE AMAZING.

IT WAS A VERY EMOTIONAL AND MOVING EVENT FOR ALL THE RIDE.

THE AMERICAN LEGION HERE IN SAWYERSVILLE, THEY'RE OUR HOST.

THEY WERE INSTRUMENTAL IN GETTING US HERE.

THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER GROUPS.

IT'S GREAT TO SEE MANY GREAT GROUPS COME OUT.

THEY HAD A VISION.

THE AMERICAN LEGION RIDERS HERE IN THE POST HAD A VISION OF DOING SOMETHING HUGE FOR THEIR COMMUNITY.

AND THEY SAID LET'S BRING THE WALL HERE.

LET'S BRING THE WALL HOME.

[ APPLAUSE ]

THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND BUILT THE WALL IN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND WE DEDICATED IT 35 YEARS AGO.

AND SO IN NOVEMBER OF 1996, WE BUILT THE WALL THAT HEALS.

HELPING PEOPLE REMEMBER AND HEAL.

WE'RE GOING TRAVEL TO 41 COMMUNITIES.

WE STARTED IN LATE JANUARY AND WE WILL GO THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF DECEMBER.

THE EDUCATION CENTER IS PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE THINGS AMONGST THE WALL THAT HEALS.

THERE IS THREE INFORMATION SCREENS ON THE BACK OF THE TRUCK.

WHICH ARE GOING TO ROTATE THROUGH PICTURES OF THE HOMETOWN HEROES THAT ARE ON THE WALL, AS WELL AS THE WALL OF FAITH AND SCREEN WHICH IS GOING TO SHOW PICTURES OF EVERYONE WHO WOULD HAVE HAD THEIR BIRTHDAY ON THAT DAY ON THE WALL.

IT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO SUDDENLY HAVE EVEN MORE OF A WALL EXPERIENCE, BECAUSE ON THREE PANELS THERE, YOU CAN SEE SOME OF THE ITEMS THAT HAVE BEEN LEFT BEHIND AT THE WALL.

THE WALL HAS REALLY TOUCHED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE EVERY YEAR, AND THEY'VE LEFT SO MANY THINGS.

THEY'RE AMAZING BECAUSE IT'S SOMETHING PERSONAL THAT WAS LEFT AT THE WALL IN WASHINGTON.

EACH ONE HAS ITS OWN LITTLE WAY OF GRABBING AT YOU, BECAUSE IT'S SOMETHING THAT WAS LEFT BY ONE VETERAN OR ANOTHER THAT LOST HIS LIFE THERE.

THAT GAVE HIS ALL.

IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE RECOGNIZE THE SACRIFICES THAT WERE MADE BY THE VETERANS.

IT'S ALSO THE WELCOME HOME THAT THE VIETNAM SOLDIERS DIDN'T GET WHEN THEY CAME BACK IN THE LATE '60s AND EARLY '70s.

THE TONE WAS THEY WAS NOT RESPECTED AT ALL.

THEY HAD PEOPLE YELLING AT THEM, THROWING STUFF AT THEM.

JUST WAS NOT GREAT.

WHEN WE CAME BACK FROM VIETNAM, WE WERE NOT WELCOMED WITH ANY PARADE.

WE WERE THE ONES THAT WERE SHUNNED.

LIKE EVERYBODY LOOKED DOWN ON US.

WE WERE BABY KILLERS AND THEY SPIT AT YOU OR SOMETHING.

WE DIDN'T HAVE ANYBODY IN THE AIRPORT MEETING US WHEN WE CAME BACK.

WE'RE KIND OF USED TO THE HUMILIATION OR WHATEVER YOU CALL IT WHEN WE CAME BACK.

THAT HURT DEEPLY.

SOME OF THEM STILL GOT IT BOTTLED UP IN THEM.

THEY GOT TO LET IT GO.

THAT'S WHY WE CALL THIS THE WALL THAT HEALS SO THEY CAN GET OUT HERE AND SEE THIS PROCESS.

I THOUGHT THIS WAS VERY IMPORTANT FOR SOME LEGIONNAIRES THAT COULDN'T MAKE TO IT WASHINGTON.

AND THIS KIND OF SOFTENS JUST A LITTLE BIT, A LITTLE MORE ACCEPTABLE.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO TRAVEL SO FAR.

NO MATTER WHAT YOU BRING IN THE WORLD TO THE WALL, YOU GET HERE AND EVERYTHING SLOWS.

IT CALMS.

THEIR LIVES ENDED, BUT YOU CAN REMEMBER THEM AND REMEMBER THEIR SACRIFICE AND THEIR PEACE.

IT'S A VERY TOUCHING MOMENT WHEN YOU SEE THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE YOU KNEW RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU ON THAT WALL.

I WASN'T SURE HOW BIG THE NAMES WERE GOING TO BE.

AND THEY'RE REALLY SMALL.

SO THAT MEANS THERE IS A LOT OF NAMES ON HERE.

TURN AROUND AND LOOK AT IT, EVERY ONE OF THOSE PANELS HAS A LOT OF NAMES ON IT.

TO SEE THIS MANY NAMES AND REALLY PUT IN PERSPECTIVE HOW MANY MEN REALLY LOST THEIR LIFE.

I HAD 23 OF MY COMRADES' NAMES ON THAT WALL.

THEY LOST THEIR LIVES IN ONE NIGHT ON THAT WALL.

THERE WAS A CREW OF 34.

AND I THINK LOST 25 OF THE 34.

A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING, AND JUST COULDN'T GET BACK.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL TESTAMENT TO ALL THOSE WHO DID SERVE IN VIETNAM WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES.

I GOT A SENSE IT DOES HEAL.

IT MIGHT PUT THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE R STILL ALIVE AT EASE THAT A GUY THAT GAVE ALL THAT HE KNEW IS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE REMEMBERED.

THEY WANTED TO SAY HI TO THEIR COMRADES THAT WERE LOST, AND JUST TOUCH SOMETHING TANGIBLE AND SAY I DIDN'T FORGET YOU.

IF YOU LOST A FAMILY MEMBER, I FEEL LIKE IT'S BE REALLY IMPORTANT TO SEE ALL THESE PEOPLE AND TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE RESPECTED FOR ALL THAT YOU'VE DONE.

THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE THAT ARE HERE THAT BELIEVE IN WHAT THEY DID, AND WE APPRECIATE WHAT THEY DID FOR US.

I SPOKE TO QUITE A FEW OF THE VETERANS THAT CAME HERE TO SEE IT, AND IT TOUCHED EVERYONE.

IT MAY BE 50 YEARS LATE, BUT IT'S STILL A WELCOME HOME, FINALLY.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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