Last night I didn’t go to the opening ceremony of The Wall That Heals for a reason – I figured there would be a crowd and I wanted some alone-time at the wall.
About 9am this morning I drove to Elks Riverside Park in Great Falls and was rather surprised to see quite a few cars already there. Although, I wouldn’t say it was crowded.
Great Falls, Montana is a military town with many retirees from all branches of the armed forces. Probably many of them have served in wars, including Vietnam.
The display at The Wall That Heals included the wall and a semi-trailer with memorabilia from the war. It was spread out at the large park area. People were quietly walking about, reading names, looking at the displays.
The mood was somber, reflective and quiet.
A little bit of history – it is the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. For me, that’s hard to believe.
A half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC is touring the country and stopped in Great Falls for a few days.
I was just entering my freshman year of high school when the Vietnam mess began.
This war deal seemed “far away” at the time but back then news reporting wasn’t so in-your-face, so graphic, or so quickly reported. Fast forward a few years as my high school class aged and many turned 18 years old – the reality of the Vietnam War was ever-present.
We all had our own private thoughts this morning. I didn’t want to talk to anybody and I’m glad people were just wandering and being reflective.
But, as I wandered around the park area I will admit that I wanted to know stories.
Did the guy next to me, who seemed too old to have served in Vietnam, have a role in the war? Was he in the military at the time? Did he have, or worse yet, lose a child in the war? What was he thinking? Maybe he wasn’t that old.
There are 58,300 names etched on The Wall That Heals. There are many more than 58,300 stories to go with those names.
The Wall That Heals will be in Great Falls, open 24 hours a day, through Sunday July 27. Elks Riverside Park is on River Drive between 6th Street and 9th Street.
I encourage you to take some time, reflect, and yes…stir up some memories of those who served.