It’s known as “The Wall That Heals,” a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. and it is an integral part of this year’s Independence Day celebrations in Dover.
The wall was erected July 1 at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park, and will remain open through July 5. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for July 2.
“This is our day, and we’re happy to have it here,” said Joe Startt, president of the Kent County Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 850.
“It means a lot to me,” Startt added.
The wall arrived in Dover June 30, accompanied by several dozen motorcyclists, members of the Hogs and Heroes motorcycle group, many of who are military veterans. The group escorted the tractor trailer carrying the 24 wall segments from Georgetown, where it had stopped following a late June appearance in Illinois.
Created by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the traveling wall is scheduled to visit almost three dozen communities throughout the country in 2015.
Wednesday morning, veterans and active duty airmen from Dover Air Force Base were assembling the wall, hammering stakes into the ground and adjusting the support structure.
“I think the number of veterans and people we have from the base who came out to help brings a really good perspective on why it’s important to all generations to have the wall in the community,” said Tim Tetz, outreach director for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
The wall contains the names of 58,299 men – and eight women – who died during the Vietnam War between 1957 and 1975, including those who were wounded and later died of those wounds. The list includes 151 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
“It’s part of our heritage, for those of us in the military,” said Lt. Daniel Sloss, of the 436th Force Support Squadron. “The Vietnam War was a very significant part of our history and it’s important to remember each and every one of these names.”
Vietnam vet Mike Snyder of Dover considered the wall’s visit to Dover a major step in helping Americans born since the end of the war understand the conflict.
“For people who can’t get to Washington, D.C. to see the original, it gives them a chance to come by and pay their respects to those we lost in Vietnam,” Snyder said.