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Take time to visit the Vietnam Wall

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting excited about the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall coming to Grant County next week.

There are five of these exhibits that travel the country. I was privileged to see the one that came to Carrollton a couple of years ago and I was impressed.

The wall will arrive in Williamstown around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9 at the Williamstown (Ky 36) exit and travel south on U.S. 25 to Eibeck Lane, where it will be placed just outside the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North.

Opening ceremonies for the wall will be held at 7 p.m. on July 10.

The public is encouraged to welcome the wall by being along the route it will travel into town and to visit it while it is in Grant County through July 15 when there will be closing ceremonies at noon.

The wall features the names of 58,178 casualties of the Vietnam War, and contains the names of four soldiers from Grant County.

This exhibit is a 3/5th scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. It stands 6-feet tall at its center and covers almost 300-feet from end to end.

It will be located on cemetery property, but was too big to fit on the flat ground inside the cemetery gates. Parking will be nearby on property owned by Mt. Olivet Christian Church.

I’ve been to Washington a couple of times and the Vietnam Memorial was a must stop on my sightseeing list because my brother was a paratrooper in Vietnam. 

One of my earliest memories is being a little girl holding my daddy’s hand standing in an airport watching my mom and sister cry as my brother, dressed in his green uniform, climbed up the steps to a plane that would take him far away from home.

He was one of the lucky ones who got to come back home. He never spoke of Vietnam and we didn’t ask, not for a long time. A couple of years before he got sick with cancer, he began to tell us a little of what he experienced. I believe he was haunted by those memories until he died. Doctors told us that the cancer that quickly invaded his body in just a few short months was probably a result of his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

I’ve heard other Vietnam veterans speak of returning to the USA, after serving their country as soldiers, only to be spat upon and cursed for their service.

The vivid images of protestors screaming things such as “Baby Killers” at the soldiers who were returning from duty is also one of my earliest memories of television.

I do believe wholeheartedly in the right of freedom of speech. I believe that you don’t have to agree or even like all of your government’s decisions, but I have trouble understanding how people can’t appreciate and respect our servicemen and women who protect our freedoms. 

This is why I’m excited to see the Vietnam wall coming to our community. It will give an opportunity for people to see it and experience it that may never get to travel to Washington, D.C.

The traveling wall is being brought to Grant County by the Williamstown Merchants Association, the City of Williamstown, the Grant County Tourism Commission and Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North. 

The total cost of the wall stopping in our community is $13,800 and donations are being accepted to help offset this cost. If you’re interested in sponsoring the wall, call Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner at 859-824-6351.

A small army of volunteers will be assisting with the set up, ceremonies, guarding of the wall while it is here and tearing it down for its next stop.

There’s still time to volunteer for this historic event. If you are interested in being a volunteer, email Lamar Fowler at lamar.fowler.uky.edu. You do not have to be a veteran to volunteer.

I’m glad our community is hosting this event and I hope that people will take advantage of this unique opportunity to see this memorial up close and personal.

 

(Jamie Baker-Nantz is editor of the Grant County News. She can be reached att jbakernantz@grantky.com or by phone at 859-824-3343.)