Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 31, 2014

Healing one town at a time

By David Hotle | Jun 14, 2012

Following the post of the story I ran last week announcing The Wall That Heals was coming to Washington, a reader named Glen Peiffer posted the quote “It’s the soldier, not the reporter who has given us Freedom of the Press. It’s the soldier, not the poet, who has given us Freedom of Speech. It’s the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the Freedom to Demonstrate. It’s the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the Right to a Fair Trial. ...” Absolutely right on, Glen.

Since I first arrived in Washington, I have tried to give our veterans plenty of coverage. I admit that I am grateful to America’s veterans for keeping American freedoms intact. All one has to do is look around and there are plenty of people who would love to get rid of traditional American freedoms in favor of something that would serve their own selfish interests. Looking at many other countries around the globe will show people the result of allowing a tyrant to remove freedoms.

A few months ago, some of my friends who are members of the American Legion Riders twisted my arm to purchase a raffle ticket for $20. The prizes being given were guns. With the right to keep and bear arms being one of the main rights that distinguishes America from most countries and arguably keeps all other rights intact, I agreed. While unfortunately I didn’t win anything, I am beginning to think that was the best $20 I had ever spent.

The money from that raffle was used to help bring The Wall That Heals to town. The funny thing is, even if the riders were just asking for donations, I would have happily contributed that money. The Wall That Heals is only in town for a short time. The riders put a lot of time and hard work into bringing the Wall here. It is something that everyone should go and see. It is out at the All-Veterans Memorial on Lexington Boulevard just east of the jail.

For those who don’t know, The Wall That Heals – sometimes referred to as the traveling Wall — is a half-scale portable replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. According to the Web site, the reason for the Wall is to help Vietnam veterans who have previously been unable to cope with viewing the actual wall to face it in their own communities. The Wall also contains a traveling museum and education center on the Vietnam War.

Additionally, the people who are driving the Wall are collecting photographs of the 58,000 people on the wall. If anyone has a photo of Dennis D. Dautremont of Riverside; Willard J. Friese of Washington; Robert G. Harvey of Washington; Robert E. Karr of Wellman; Craig A. Rich of Brighton; or Larry E. Smith of Washington, please let the people operating the Wall know or give me a call at 653-2191 and I’ll see to it they get into the right hands.

The Wall was unveiled on Veterans Day 1996. It is designed to travel throughout the United States and has already visited over 400 towns. Now it is here.

I had actually visited the Wall when it was being displayed in Davenport several years ago. Personally, I am too young to remember the Vietnam War. I mean, I know about it, but I didn’t live through it. I know a lot of people who served during Vietnam. Many of my friends’ fathers served. Several people I went to college with, both students and teachers, had served. Many people around here have served in Vietnam. From what I understand, many people coming home from the war at the time didn’t receive the hero’s welcome they deserved. In fact, in many cases, it was the opposite. I think it is time for us to take that serious mistake and make it right.

Many of these veterans only want to know that their sacrifice for their country is appreciated. We now have the opportunity to make that clear. Tonight at 7 p.m., there will be a special opening ceremony for the Wall. I would love to have to walk several blocks to get to it because of all the parked cars and to have to work my way through the large crowd of people who are gathered to give our servicemen and women the honor they deserve. I grant you that the memorial is on a large tract of land capable of holding a lot of people, but let’s fill that tract to overflowing tonight.

The people who served in the Vietnam War need to know that the country they sacrificed so much for is behind them in their efforts and they aren’t just forgotten relics of the war. If there is one thing I know about the people of Washington County, it is that they will send that message loud and clear.

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