GREENFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — Veterans on Tuesday were happy to see a big welcome for a replica of one of the nation’s most iconic war monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
The replica is a memorial with a mission. A three-fourths-scale version of the original, the replica is 375 feet long — longer than a football field — and 7 .5 feet tall at its highest point. Called The Wall That Heals, it’s made up of 140 panels and 58,318 names.
Almost 100 motorcycles brought it Tuesday evening to the Stillinger Family Funeral Home.
“It’s emotional,” David Hine, a retired Air Force veteran, said. “I had two friends who died in Vietnam.”
Almost 50 years later, Hine has not forgotten them nor a brother-in-law killed by Agent Orange, a highly toxic herbicide sprayed as a defoliant in chemical warfare.
“We owe it to them to remember their sacrifice and honor their sacrifice,” he said.
The welcoming committee Tuesday was in stark contrast to the welcome most Vietnam War veterans got a half century ago upon returning from the unpopular war that ran from Nov. 1, 1955-April 30, 1975.
Firefighters from Greenfield and Shelbyville strung a large flag between their aerial trucks.
About 50 young kids from a nearby day care chanted “USA, USA” as they waved small flags. Lead teacher Fawn Minchin’s mother is a disabled veteran. She said she hopes this lesson of patriotism sticks with the children.
“You can’t ever put that in a book,” Minchin said. “They can actually stand here, see this and hopefully understand it.”
Kurt Vetters was one of the military veterans at Tuesday’s welcoming event. “To see this kind of outpouring 50 years later is amazing.”
He added that each local veteran killed in action has been recognized in a special ceremony 50 years after their death.
For veterans unable to make it to the nation’s capital to honor the sacrifice of their comrades, the replica is the next best thing: a chance to heal and perhaps better cope in their own community.
“Sometimes you feel guilty,” said Hine, who was sent to Europe. “But, we’ve been told we shouldn’t feel that way. I’m not sure how else to feel at times. Maybe I should have volunteered.”
Some see the names on the replica as a list of unfulfilled potential.
“You don’t know what they could have been,” Hine said. “Their lives were taken way too short as with 58,000 of them. You wonder, what if they did come home?”
Volunteers will construct the wall Wednesday. News 8 and WISHTV.com will have updates through the day.
Stillinger Family Funeral Home in Greenfield is at 1780 W. Main St. (U.S. 40), just west of downtown. The replica wall will open to the public at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and remain open day and night until 2 p.m. Sunday.
There’s a Back Home Again ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday that will include the singing of the national anthem and “Amazing Grace” as well as a message from the featured speaker, U.S. Rep. Jim Baird. The Indiana Republican is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War.
A closing ceremony will be at 11 a.m. Sunday. The schedule calls for the colors to be retired and a moment of silence to be conducted. However, the public can still visit The Wall That Heals until 2 p.m. Sunday when it closes.
The Wall That Heals will return to Indiana in South Bend in September.
Hine said a wall replica also came to Greenfield in 2005. That was a half-scale replica, which means this version is 50 percent larger than that one.