BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Wall That Heals rolled into Mena on Wednesday, March 22, and had thousands of visitors visit to pay homage to the soldiers who gave all during the Vietnam War. Head organizer Linda Johnson said 7,000 signed in during The Wall’s stay in Mena and said that many “started their healing process.”
The Wall That Heals is a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument in Washington, D.C. It gives those who have served and those who have lost a chance to bring healing. On their website, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund explains, “Bringing The Wall home to communities throughout our country allows the souls enshrined on the Memorial to exist once more among family and friends in the peace and comfort of familiar surroundings. The traveling exhibit provides thousands of veterans who have been unable to cope with the prospect of facing The Wall to find the strength and courage to do so within their own communities, thus allowing the healing process to begin.”
The Wall was escorted from by dozens of motorcyclists from across Arkansas and Oklahoma and paraded through Mena before stopping at Bearcat Stadium where the set up remained until Sunday, March 26. An education center on site showed memorabilia from the Vietnam War and also pictures of local soldiers who lost their lives while serving there.
On Thursday, an Opening Ceremony was held inside Bearcat Stadium where dignitaries spoke of the losses incurred and thanked veterans, both living and deceased, for their ultimate sacrifice. Don Martin,
Of the thousands of visitors attending, some came from as far as New Mexico. Johnson said one man drove 250 miles on his motorcycle to see it and five Oklahoma schools brought students. She noted that since Arkansas schools were on Spring Break while The Wall was here, Oklahoma schools were in session and able to bring their students.
“It went great,” said Johnson. “A lot of veterans and Vietnam vets appreciated it being here.”
Johnson also thanked all of those who helped make The Wall coming to Mena possible and those who visited. “Thanks to all the volunteers, the escorts, the churches who donated food to feed the escorts, committee people… my husband, who put up with my madness for four and a half months and everyone else who contributed and visited. Without all of them, it would not have been possible or nearly the success.”
For those that were unable to attend the parade or the Opening Ceremony, videos of both are posted on the Polk County Pulse Facebook page.