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West Valley City Journal

Wall That Heals Brings Power to Utah

Aug 04, 2016 04:24PM ● By Travis Barton

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was placed in Centennial Park from June 30 to July 5. Its arrival was marked by a long procession from Camp Williams to the park. –Kevin Conde

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

West Valley City, Utah - Across the country people may not have the opportunity to gaze upon the memorials located in Washington DC. But one of those memorials celebrated Independence Day in West Valley.

From June 30 to July 5 the Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, was set up in Centennial Park open for the public to visit. The wall is designed to travel to communities throughout the United States.

Gary Harter, Executive Director of Utah Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, was there on behalf of Governor Gary Herbert to declare June 30, The Wall That Heals Day.

“We express gratitude to all veterans in our country and honor the heroism, patriotism, service and sacrifice of all those who answered the call of duty during the Vietnam War,” Harter read from Herbert’s declaration.

The Wall That Heals arrived in Utah on the morning of June 30 via a 53-foot, fifth-wheel trailer with cases built into the sides serving as a mobile Education Center.

The memorial’s arrival was marked by a procession escorted from Camp Williams to Centennial Park which featured police vehicles, members of the Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles, Vietnam War era vehicles and historians dressed in Vietnam era uniforms.

Opening ceremony of the memorial took place the night of June 30 which included the wreath ceremony and reading the 361 names of Utahans who died.

“It was a great ceremony, very respectful,” Dan Zaharias, Vietnam veteran, said.

Nancy Day, Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, said planning for this event began over a year ago and to see it finally here was amazing.

“I saw a Patriot guard rider start crying before the procession even started…it’s the Wall That Heals, it reaches out like that, it was very worth the time and effort,” Day said.

The Wall That Heals is meant to provide an opportunity to veterans and their family members around the country the chance to see the memorial that honors the more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. Armed forces during the Vietnam War.

Bearing the name of the more than 58,000 men and women who perished during the war, the 250-foot replica stayed open 24 hours a day so people could visit at any time with volunteers around the clock available to help.

Day said a driving force in bringing The Wall here was providing the opportunity for members of the community who maybe can’t make it to Washington DC.

“We think it’s extremely valuable to them,” Day said.

“It was an opportunity for them to look and basically remember the history we carry in the past,” Councilman Tom Huynh said.

Huynh, who was born in Vietnam, was personally affected by the war. His father died in special forces when he was five-years-old.

“The world turned upside down when my mother received that news,” Huynh said.

Jim Gonzales, a Vietnam veteran, came to the wall to see the names of his schoolmates and cousins.

“It’s been a long time…it’s kinda weird,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said he, just like any veteran of war, is still feeling the physical effects.

Gonzales has been dealing with cancer for years, most likely he guesses, from his time in Vietnam. He had to have his front teeth replaced after a blow to the head only for the replacement teeth to cause decay in his other teeth.

Mayor Ron Bigelow, who got the necessary sponsorship from Zions Bank for the occasion, said it was different time for veterans during and after the Vietnam War. Soldiers felt the physical effects of the war as much as the affect it had on the country.

“The war was divisive in our own country…when veterans came home, they were jeered not cheered,” Bigelow said.

Zaharias said it was bad ordeal coming off the plane of a conflict they didn’t want to get into, but chose to serve their country anyway.

“We had to hide our heads in shame because everyone was against us,” Zaharias said. “To come back and be disgraced and spit upon, it was an ungrateful war.”

Bigelow said it’s important to honor the soldiers who served.

“Regardless of your political views, we can still honor and support those who served during the war,” Bigelow said.

Bigelow said when he first went to see The Wall he didn’t expect it to impact him having served in the Air Force stateside in an office job.

“When I simply looked at the names, they became very real,” Bigelow said. “Our nation is built upon the sacrifice that they made.”