Tales from the Road: The Wall That Heals visits Sebring Florida
Our journey to Sebring FL, began with an escort departing from Ritchie Brothers auction in Davenport, Florida. We had approximately 425 riders to escort The Wall That Heals to Sebring. There were motorcycle organizations from all over the state and with such a large gathering it was impossible to get a photo of all of them together. We were led by motorcycle police officers from the state and several counties. The highway was closed to traffic behind us until all motor cycles had passed for safety. As we proceeded down the highway there were several locations where people were standing alongside the roadway to greet us and wave flags. According to the last patrol car the procession was two and a half miles long.
VFW Post 4300 of Sebring FL sponsored the Wall’s presence, with Commander John Vawter Sr, also an Education Center Volunteer, leading the organization. On Thursday we had an opening ceremony with several guest speakers, bag pipes playing “Amazing Grace”, and concluding with the entire crowd singing “God Bless the USA”. It was a very moving experience to hear and see the crowd as they were waving their arms over their heads as they sang.
On Thursday evening we meet Col Donald E Ballard, Congressional Medal of Honor, recipient. A native of Kansas City MO., Col Ballard was a Hospital Corpsman Second Class, US Navy, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, when in the performance of his duty, attending to injured comrades, was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit employing automatic weapons and mortars and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded marine, HC2c Ballard moved across the fire-swept terrain to the injured man and rendered medical assistance to his comrade. Ballard then directed 4 marines to carry the casualty to a position of safety. As the four men moved the wounded marine, an enemy soldier suddenly left his concealed position and, after hurling a hand grenade, which landed near the casualty, commenced firing upon the small group of men. Instantly shouting a warning to the marines, HC2c Ballard threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly arose from his dangerous position and returned the grenade to the enemy, where it did detonate, and he continued treating the wounded.
On Saturday Col Ballard came to the site and spoke at The Wall with Commander John Vawter. Col Ballard spoke of the necessity of all citizens to take part in the preservation of our country’s freedom as tribute to the soldiers that have fought for that freedom in the past and present.
On Sunday a visitor came to the TWTH Education Center with watery eyes and asked for help locating a name on the Wall. As he explained that the person was his father, whom he had never known, his father having died never knowing that he had a son either. He stated that his mother had never told him about his him or how his father was killed. His grandparents had never accepted him in their family and denied his existence as their grandson. We found his father’s record on the Virtual Wall website and were able to give him a picture along with the circumstance of his father’s death. He was extremely grateful to finally learn about his Dad. Through all of this he finally had some history of his life. He was actually smiling when he walked away from the tent.
Hope to see you at a future location,
The Wall That Heals Site Managers