Among all of the walls erected in this country, many simply make a property line tangible. Certain other walls, and even proposals for walls, serve to isolate and aggravate people.
The rarest of walls bring people together, and help along those in the process of mending. That’s the sort that will stand this week on a soccer field in Windsor.
The sacred display that will be open to the public 24 hours a day from Wednesday evening to Sunday afternoon is a three-quarter scale, traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC It will be set up at the Wilson Ranch Soccer Park on Cameron Drive at Mitchell Lane.
Called The Wall That Heals, it is engraved with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam or nearby between 1956 and 1975.
Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians from both the north and south who were killed often exceed 3 million.
The toll exacted on US troops 50 years ago, through the year of 1969, was harrowing: almost 12,000.
The year before was worse, much so. In 1968, records show at least 17,000 American service members died in the undeclared war against what was then the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or North Vietnam. The conflict’s bloodiest single day for the United States was Jan. 31, 1968, the first full day of North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive. American deaths that day numbered 246.
Among the names on the traveling wall of synthetic granite are those of 55 men from Sonoma County.
“They should be all be remembered,” said Gary Greenough, a Vietnam veteran in Santa Rosa who will speak Saturday at a public ceremony alongside the visiting wall.
“The merits or demerits of the Vietnam War is not the issue,” Greenough said. “Our government is the one that sends our blood and treasure off to war.”
This replica of the wall, and the original memory in DC, are tributes, he said, “to the real people who went off to serve their country.”
Since its creation in 1996, the Wall That Heals has been trucked to more than 600 cities across the nation. It and other replicas previously have visited the North Bay.
A project of the Virginia-based nonprofit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which led to the creation of the permanent wall in 1982, the Wall That Heals is being brought back by the members of the Russian River VFW Post No. 768 of Healdsburg. There will be no charge for visiting the wall, but the VFW post welcomes donations to defray the roughly $15,000 that the stop in Sonoma County will cost.
Donations made payable to Russian River VFW can be sent to The Wall That Heals, PO Box 301, Windsor, CA 95492.
The truck transporting the wall and its accompanying mobile education center are set to arrive at 4 pm Tuesday at the Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma. Last week, it was on display at Bellflower in Los Angeles County.
A CHP escort will accompany it to Windsor and to the soccer complex near the new Russian River Brewing Co. plant and pub. It’s expected to take a volunteer crew of Windsor firefighters and Coast Guard members from the Two Rock training station about eight to 10 hours Wednesday to assemble the wall, which is 375 feet long and at its tallest point 7.5 feet high.
The public opening is scheduled for 6 pm Wednesday. From then until 3 pm Sunday, visitor will be invited to spend as much as they like with the wall, day and night.
Teams of volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and to keep an eye on the wall.
The welcoming ceremony set for 10 on Saturday will feature an honor guard, a 21-gun salute, the laying of a wreath, the playing of taps and comments by Navy vet Greenough and a Gold Star widow whose late husband’s name appears among the 58,318 engraved on the wall. As it happens, the Windsor visit coincides with both Friday’s National Vietnam War Veterans Day, honoring all who served during the conflict, and Saturday’s California Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
Sunday afternoon, the wall will be packed up, and the truck will set off for Florence, Oregon.
You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 or [email protected].
Editors’ note: This version of the story corrects the time and day that the wall will be opened to the public in Windsor.
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