Let Wall in Warren help heal wounds of Vietnam


Forty-five years ago, this nation ended its involvement in a raging 20-year conflict that scarred this nation to its core and divided America more deeply than any military engagement before or after it.

The scars were many:

The U.S. suffered a major morale- deflating defeat to communism.

More than 58,000 American men and women lost their lives, and more than 150,000 were wounded.

Heated and internecine demonstrations at home produced its own set of casualties, most notably four students shot and killed by National Guardsmen at nearby Kent State University in 1970.

Spit in the face, rather than shakes of the hand, greeted many disrespected and disenchanted returning veterans.

The conflict also struck a massive blow to the U.S. economy, sinking it deeper into debt and costing American taxpayers an estimated $168 billion.

Four and one-half decades later, some of those deep and divisive wounds still fester. That’s why it remains incredibly important that Americans continue the process of stanching the flow of bitterness that still oozes from that massively unpopular conflict.

And if one accepts the adage that time indeed can heal all wounds, then a poignant event in Packard Park in Warren this weekend can go far toward that end and deserves our community’s full-throttle support.

That signature event takes the form of a display in the park on Mahoning Avenue Northwest in Warren through Sunday of The Wall That Heals.

That wall stands as a stark and striking three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The replica created by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet high at its tallest point. Visitors can experience The Wall rising above them as they walk toward the apex, a key feature of the design of The Wall in D.C.

The Mahoning Valley is privileged to be the only site in Ohio where The Wall That Heals will be on display this year. To be sure, veterans, family of fallen soldiers and those with ties to the tumultuous Vietnam Era owe a debt of gratitude to The Warren Heritage Center and the Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission for their sponsorship of this important community event.

EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF WALL

Hundreds of people showed their appreciation for that effort and for the veterans of the conflict by turning out at the formal opening of the exhibit of the wall and its accompanying Education Center on Thursday morning.

The emotional power the Wall projects is monumental.

Just ask Pastor Dave Luther of Warren, who served in the U.S. Navy and helped build underwater mines during the war. He was on hand for the opening where he said he has seen the memorial wall three times, and each time, it has moved him to tears.

‘‘These are heroes that no one recognized. Those that came back alive weren’t respected,’’ he said.

Fortunately, however, time has whittled away at the profound disrespect many veterans first encountered.

That power of healing was on parade – literally – Tuesday when a cortege of some 400 motorcyclists, most of them Vietnam War veterans, escorted The Wall from the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant in Austintown to the park on Warren’s northwest side.

That honor guard served as a fitting prelude to the honor that thousands of Mahoning Valley residents rightfully will show over the next three days when visiting the remarkably close-to-authentic replica of the Washington landmark.

Visitors of The Wall in Warren will be among the first across the nation to see the larger version (its initial version was only one-half scale to the original) and will be able to do name rubbings of individual service member’s names, as has been a hallowed tradition of the memorial in the nation’s capital.

One fine addition to the exhibit on display 24 hours a day is an educational center that provides detailed snapshots of the war for those who lived through the Vietnam Era or those who’ve encountered it only in history books.

For all, the exhibition offers an opportunity for a grateful nation to play an active role in the slow but ongoing healing process. That opportunity should not be squandered.

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