A scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is on display at Historic Camden. Its called the Wall That Heals and features all the names of the 58,318 who served and died in Vietnam. South Carolina Public Radio spoke with students, teachers, veterans and community members during a recent visit to the exhibit.
Each year the exhibit travels across the country to give visitors a better understanding of the legacy of The Wall and educate about the impact of the Vietnam War. This year, the exhibit will visit 38 cities. Director of Outreach and Site Manager Tim Tetz said out of 132 applications, Camden was chosen as one of this 38 stops because of its strong community.
"They proved to us that they had an incredible organization and coalition behind us and they've done a wonderful job of making a place for a national memorial for a weekend."
The Wall That Heals has been displayed at nearly 600 communities throughout the nation. Like the original Memorial, The Wall is erected in a chevron-shape and visitors can do name rubbings of individual service member's names on The Wall. Items representative of those left at the original Wall in Washington, DC are also a part of the display.
"We have the ability to bring out items that are a simulation to items left behind at The Wall; so you get to see dog tags and the care packages and the notes from friends and family. You don't get to see those outside of a storage house in Washington, D.C.
The Vietnam Memorial Fund was created in 1979 to build the Memorial in Washington. Today, the nonprofit cares for that memorial and travels with the replica memorial. The replica is 375 feet wide and 7.5 feet high, at its tallest point. It travels in a 53-foot-long truck that turns into a mobile educational unit.
"It allows people to see the photographs of those from Kershaw County and each of the counties that touch Kershaw County whose names are on the Wall," Tetz said. Other features of the mobile education center include:
- Hometown Heroes - Photos of service members on The Wall who list their home of record from the local area. The photos are part of the effort to put a face to every name on The Wall and for the Wall of Faces.
- Map of Vietnam
- In Memory Honor Roll - Photos of local Vietnam veterans honored through VVMF's In Memory program which honors veterans who returned home and later died of Vietnam-related illnesses.
- A display of items representative of those left at The Wall in Washington, D.C. in remembrance of those on The Wall.
- Digital kiosk allows visitors to search for names using VVMF's Wall of Faces.
- Two paper directories allow for names to be found alphabetically.
- The Gold Star Bike - Donated to VVMF by the American Gold Star Mothers in 2012, the bike is a Softail Custom Harley that pays tribute to the mothers who lost sons to the Vietnam War.
A bonus to the educational unit is that it gives visitors a first-hand look at a museum that will be built next to permanent memorial in Washington.
The Vietnam War stretched from 1954 to 1975. More than 3 million people were killed. In April the first Vietnam War Veterans Day holiday was observed. To learn more about The Wall That Heals Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center, visit www.vvmf.org and the wallthatheals.org.