KILLEEN — Retired Army chaplain Greg Schannep recalls the day in August 1965 when he found a letter in his mailbox which began, “Greetings.”
The mention of that incident brought laughter of understanding from the veterans in attendance at the opening ceremony for The Wall that Heals, the traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Approximately 100 veterans and public officials gathered at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery last Thursday for that ceremony.
The wall had been set up over a six hour period by volunteers March 7 and retrieved — taken down — by other volunteers Sunday afternoon.
More than 3,000 people had visited the memorial by Sunday, with some people paying their respects to the soldiers in general, while others looked for specific names on the list of the fallen.
“My friend and I were stationed at Fort Bragg together,” said Jose Hernandez, who was looking for the name of his friend, Ralph O’Hill, on Sunday. “I’ve never been to see the wall in D.C., before, so when I heard this one was going to be here, I wanted to come and pay my respects.”
A visitors center offered history of the Vietnam War and the wall.
Spc. Salam Defar of Fort Hood attended the opening ceremony. He viewed the wall as being for all generations who wish to greatly appreciate what the men and women who served did during the war.
Retired Lt. Col. Pat Christ was keynote speaker for the ceremony. He has been instrumental in organizing many events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
“This is just another symbol of remembrance of that war,” Christ said.
It’s about helping with the healing for Christ.
For Schannep, his own healing from serving during the Vietnam era brought realization. “You have changed. I have changed.” He led the group in prayer to honor the more than 58,000 men and women who gave their all in Vietnam, and whose names are inscribed on the wall.
Eric Brown, Veterans Land Board deputy director, spoke about “the tremendous impact the Vietnam War had on many people” and how The Wall that Heals is meant to comfort the veterans and families who are still dealing with the effects of that service.
That impact, along with the history of the war, are important to Christ. “We do not want to repeat the Vietnam War,” he said.
Whether people thought the United States’ participation in Vietnam was good or bad, necessary or unnecessary, those who served are due gratitude and a welcome home, Christ said.
He added that the wall helps veterans who didn’t feel welcome coming home heal.
“The Wall That Heals started traveling around the country in 1996, but this particular Wall was created last winter, so this is only the second time it has been set up,” Tim Tetz with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund said. “When the Wall leaves Sunday, it will be heading to Oro Valley, Arizona.”
Tetz said the memorial is traditionally set up in centralized locations that can support the design of the entire Wall.
Artie Phillips contributed to this report.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 254-501-7568