VET: Wall That Heals is best medicine


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By SAMANTHA PHILLIPS

sphillips@vindy.com

WARREN

Ken Nezbeth of Leavittsburg, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, said The Wall That Heals is “the best medicine” for Vietnam veterans and their families.

“You cry, shed some tears. But it’s the best medicine,” he said.

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday for The Wall That Heals and a touching ceremony to commemorate the 58,318 service members who died in Vietnam. Signs with biographies and pictures of Trumbull County veterans lined the wall.

The Wall that Heals is a Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica and a mobile education center that travels around the country for those who can’t travel to Washington, D.C., for the original memorial.

The replica arrived at Packard Park on Tuesday, with an escort of 400 motorcycles.

Pastor Dave Luther of Warren, who gave the invocation at the ceremony, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. “These are the heroes nobody recognized back in the day. Those who came back alive weren’t respected,” he said. “That’s what we are healing from.”

Luther has seen the memorial in Washington three times and said he is moved to tears every time.

Nezbeth recalls returning from his service from 1969 to 1970 and being spit at and disrespected.

He doesn’t want those fighting in the Middle East now to experience the same treatment.

“We need to educate our children and never let our government forget our veterans,” he said.

Speakers echoed the sentiment that the treatment of veterans coming home from the Vietnam War was unacceptable.

During the ceremony, Jim Valesky, president of the Warren Heritage Center, asked how many people served in the war or had family that served, and almost everyone in the crowd raised their hand.

He said the wall does not denote military branch, race or political affiliation because “what they have in common is each and every one of them gave their lives for us.

“This ceremony is part of the welcome home they never got,” he added.

Mayor Doug Franklin implored the crowd to support the military not just with thoughts and prayers, but with action.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, told the crowd that legislators will continue to work on legislation that helps military members and veterans.

“I think it’s altogether fitting that this wall is in Warren, Ohio, because if there is any city across the United States that best reflects an appreciation for veterans and the concept of hard work, it’s Warren, Ohio,” he said.

At the end of the ceremony, Ryan gave lapel pins to Vietnam-era veterans.

The flag was lowered to half-mast in honor of those who died in war.

Jim Rapone of Warren served in the Marines from 1964 to 1968. He said watching his 8-year-old grandson, Frankie Santee of Howland, place a picture of his lieutenant on the wall was a treasure.

David Johnson of Warren, who served in the Air Force from 1969 to 1970, said the wall is very touching. He experienced disrespect from people when he came home, but said, “ceremonies like this help make up for what happened.”

IF YOU GO

The Wall That Heals, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center, will be on display 24 hours a day through Sunday afternoon.

Where: Packard Park, 1703 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren

Cost: Free

Special events: Candlelight Vigil for Women on the Wall and Purple Heart Ceremony, 7 p.m. Saturday.

Closing Ceremony, Laying of the Roses, Reading of the Names of those from Trumbull County Killed in Vietnam, Rifle Salute at noon Sunday.

Source: Wall That Heals

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