After hosting The Wall That Heals, San Diego Declares Aug. 4 “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Day”d
In the spring of this year, San Diego was gearing up volunteers, military families and native Diegans to support the arrival of The Wall That Heals (TWTH), a half-scale replica of The Wall in D.C. along with a mobile Education Center.
The Wall That Heals was hosted by the USS Midway Museum from April 24 to May 1st and was going to prove to be a time for celebrations and remembrance surrounding the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. However, hosting The Wall That Heals in San Diego was a lot more than honoring Vietnam veterans. With one of the largest military populations in the country, San Diego was going to push out a blowout of a stop. From honoring volunteers, to active-duty military, and the Vietnamese community – it was going to speak to thousands. It would be the largest in 2015, and it brought out a lot of support.
Lara Ryan, VVMF’s Western Regional Director had originally brought the idea to community leaders and veterans groups. It was particularly special because of the notoriety of its site host. The Midway was essential to the safe landing of about 3,000 refugees from Vietnam during Operation Frequent Wind, 40 years earlier.
When the motorcycle escort took off in the early morning of Friday, April 24th, the sounds of veteran and active duty riders were loud and strong
As it rolled into the town of its week-long stop, Ryan felt a sense of pride.
Weeks before The Wall That Heals made its arrival, volunteers and military families joined the Midway in tying yellow ribbons to the flight deck – more than 58,000 of them. The ribbons signified U.S. lives lost. Hearing them blow in the wind, one could almost hear the sounds of their souls reminding you to ‘never forget.’
Overall, this five-day event, kicking off with an opening ceremony, brought together a community. The Midway then commemorated the anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind with a day-long celebration of sailors and officers who were aboard on April 30, 1975.
“It was fascinating to hear a perspective that we don’t often: that of the young child whose family escaped the North Vietnamese occupation thanks to American soldiers,” Ryan said.
From set-up to break-down, The Wall That Heals proved to be powerful, moving experience. One veteran in particular, coined “Little Dog,” follows The Wall That Heals to various stops across the country to play TAPS for the fallen.
No one could deny the power of The Wall. Ryan recalls it as heartwarming, yet gut-wrenching. She was reminded “how lucky we are to live in the United States of America for whom so many have served and sacrificed to defend.”
As part of the proclamation it states, “WHEREAS, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has been assisted by the community and sponsors in order to achieve its mission and vision which is to properly honor and justly recognize those who have served and sacrificed in our nation’s Armed Forces; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT PROCLAIMED, by the Mayor and City Council, that this Council, for and on behalf of the citizens of San Diego, does hereby proclaim August 4, 2015 to be “THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND DAY” in the City of San Diego.”
Hosting The Wall That Heals showed how strongly a community can come together and build up the importance of legacy and service in the United States. It would not have been made possible without the support of so many.
Ryan concluded, “I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the USS Midway and RADM McLaughlin (USN, Ret) and his amazing staff, TWTH Advisory Board members – Ron Bonnin, LTCOL Jack Harkins (USMC, Ret), Scott McGaugh and CAPT Ward Wilson (USN, Ret); TWTH Task Force; the sponsors and all of the many volunteers who gave their money and time out of respect for the significance of the exhibit and what it means to people to have it come to their community.”