The Wall that Heals: Vietnam Memorial replica arrives in Swoyersville
Source: Fox 56 WOLF-TVVeterans talk about the Vietnam Memorial replica and the importance of remembering friends who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
SWOYERSVILLE — Richard “Sarge” Silva knows why it’s important to have The Wall That Heals on display in Luzerne County.
Silva, of Nicholson, has been to the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., but he understands many people aren’t able to make the trip to the nation’s capital to see it.
“This is an exact replica of the original wall,” Silva said Wednesday in the parking lot of the Swoyersville American Legion. “Having it here benefits those people who could never get to Washington to see the original. They can come here and see it and touch the names of the brave people who lost their lives in Vietnam.”
The Wall That Heals, a 250-foot replica of the wall in Washington, along with a mobile Education Center is on display in Swoyersville through Sunday. The wall has been set up in a field behind the American Legion on Shoemaker Street.
The display will be open 24 hours a day from 6 p.m. today through 3 p.m. Sunday.
The public can visit for free.
The Wall That Heals honors the roughly 3 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed forces in the Vietnam War, and it bears the names of the more than 58,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam — 79 from Luzerne County.
Silva talked about his return from Vietnam and the less-than-welcome reception he and his fellow soldiers received from the American public. He said it’s somewhat satisfying, albeit 50 years later, that Vietnam veterans have finally been given the respect and appreciation they deserve.
“The way we were treated back then was uncalled for,” Silva said. “But now, those who have served in more recent wars credit us for being well-received when they returned home. They know what we went through.”
Like most Vietnam veterans, Silva doesn’t talk about his time in the jungle.
“We only talk about that with each other,” he said. “We don’t tell war stories. A lot more happened over there than what you have seen on TV.”
Silva served with the U.S. Air Force Commandos 16th Special Operations unit. He said he fought in four countries in Southeast Asia, including Laos and Cambodia — two countries the American public was told we weren’t fighting.
Christopher Dick, of Jessup, served with the Army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. He said having The Wall That Heals in town is “an honor and a privilege” for him and all Vietnam veterans.
“I served in Vietnam after my two older brothers had been there,” Dick said. “We’ve waited more than 50 years to get the recognition we deserve. Having the wall here is sort of like being honored for our service to our country.”
Victoria Thomas, site manager for The Wall That Heals, said the Swoyersville visit is the only stop for the exhibit in Pennsylvania this year. It will visit 41 towns across the country in 2017.
“There is so much emotion attached to this,” she said of the wall.
Cathy Fetterman, event coordinator, said it takes four hours to assemble the traveling memorial.
Swoyersville Mayor Chris Concert said he was proud to have his town hosting The Wall That Heals.
“We truly are honored to have it here,” Concert said. “And I am amazed at the number of volunteers who have come out to help put this all together. I’m looking forward to the next four days of the exhibit.”
Since its debut in 1996, the exhibit has been on display in nearly 500 U.S. communities in addition to an April 1999 tour of Ireland and a visit to Canada in 2005.
The mobile Education Center features digital displays of photos of service members whose names are on the wall; letters and memorabilia left at the wall in D.C.; a map of Vietnam and a chronological overview of the Vietnam War. The names on The Wall That Heals replicate the names on the wall in Washington, D.C. As on the original, the names are listed alphabetically by day of casualty.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.
More on The Wall
• Based in Arlington, Virginia, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is the nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 1980 to build a national memorial dedicated to all who served with the U.S. armed forces in the Vietnam War.
• Incorporated on April 27, 1979, by a group of veterans led by Jan C. Scruggs, the organization sought a tangible symbol of recognition from the American people for those who served in the war.
• On Veterans Day 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund unveiled a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., designed to travel to communities throughout the United States.