'The Wall That Heals' comes to St. Paul
Returned from Vietnam unopened with "KIA 10-31-72" written on it in black marker, its contents of Kool-Aid and cookies made known from the note taped to the outside, a plain brown package showed up 20 years later at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A replica of that package, along with some of the more than 400,000 items left at the wall in D.C., will be in St. Paul at the State Capitol grounds through Sunday, June 24, along with "The Wall That Heals," a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"'The Wall That Heals' came about as a process to bring around a chance for healing to people who might not be able to get to the wall in D.C.," said Callie Wright, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Education Programs manager. "It is an opportunity for Vietnam veterans, for others, for families to see names on the wall who have never been to D.C. — or maybe they've been once. This is an opportunity for them to see those names and touch those names."
Wright has the opportunity to travel to many of the cities with the wall and works, in part, with the education center that is part of "The Wall That Heals."
"Continuing the education about Vietnam matters, it really does to me," Wright said, citing connections between the Vietnam War and multiple other movements in the country at the time. "But the reality is, when you're talking about so many other things you are actually talking about Vietnam, you just might not know it."
Aside from an educational approach, Wright said one of the most rewarding parts of her work with the wall, which stands 7.5 feet tall to the actual memorial's 10 feet and is made of synthetic granite, is helping someone find a name on the wall.
"It's an incredibly emotional experience. It's heartbreaking, it's kind of a moment of austere solitude," Wright recalled. "It really is a reminder that each one of these people is somebody's person."
Wright said the wall, which is carved just like the original, is lit and open 24 hours a day. Volunteers will be available to help with any questions. Just like the wall in D.C., the names are listed chronologically by casualty date.
For more information, visit www.vvmf.org/twth.