Local war heroes are remembering the sacrifices of their fallen comrades through a special traveling replica wall dedicated to U.S. service members that has made its way to San Diego this week.
“The Wall That Heals” (TWTH), a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be on display Thursday through Sunday on the lawn at Tuna Harbor Park on North Harbor Drive, adjacent to the USS Midway and near the famous “Unconditional Surrender” statue.
The wall – part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) and set up by volunteers – will be open for public viewing 24 hours a day while it’s in San Diego. There will be an opening ceremony at the wall on Thursday.
The replica is a perfect 50 percent scale of the actual wall in Washington, D.C., right down to the font of all 58,286 names of veterans. The traveling set-up also includes a timeline of the war, a history of the wall and two panels of pictures of soldiers.
More than 350 San Diegans gave their lives in the Vietnam War, leaving local veterans with emotional and physical pain that lasts to this day.
Vietnam veteran William Buchanan said the wall represents the ultimate sacrifice many gave for our country.
“This wall here, it shows some of us gave some, but these people on this wall gave all. They gave everything to this country and it’s just a great feeling to be here and be in the presence of that wall,” he said.
The San Diego resident said he earned a Purple Heart after taking a grenade to the stomach on the battlefield. Buchanan said that with the wall, his fallen comrades will now finally get the recognition they never received after the war.
Organizers of the traveling wall project say San Diego has the largest concentration of veterans like Buchanan in the country. The Wall That Heals has made more than 350 stops across the country, at each stop raising money to build an underground Education Center adjacent to the original wall in Washington, D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial.
Buchanan says the memorial wall is important, but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to life after war for veterans.
"Some veterans come back without legs, arms, some come back with no hearing. When a veteran does that the country should take care of them. They shouldn't come back here and be homeless, they shouldn't come back here and have to beg for help or beg for assistance," he said.
Construction for the Education Center begins in 2016. It will feature a display about what it means to serve the nation, “from Bunker Hill to Baghdad,” and will also boast exhibits showcasing items left at the wall through the years – everything from baseball mitts to a brand new motorcycle. Many of the mementos are left for fallen veterans by total strangers. The center will also include the “Wall of Faces” exhibit, which will include photos of every soldier who was killed or went missing during the Vietnam War.
A closing ceremony will be held at The Wall That Heals on Sunday in San Diego. After that, the wall will head to New Mexico for its next stop.
To learn more about the wall, visit the VVMF website.