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October 1, 2016

Local, state, and national leaders preside at The Wall That Heals opening ceremony

 

 

To view more photos of The Wall That Heals Opening Ceremony and set up of The Wall on Sunday, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/centertech/collections/72157626689520360/.

U.S. Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) addresses the crowd at Monday's opening ceremony for The Wall That Heals

Vietnam Veteran Claude Davis was one of nearly 150 people who came to the opening ceremony for The Wall That Heals—the mobile Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Museum—on Monday on the grounds of The Center for Rural Development in Somerset.

In addition to performing The National Anthem at the event, Davis came with a specific mission. He was determined to find the name of his friend and fallen comrade, James Jenkins, who died in a foxhole in Vietnam at the moment Davis had stepped away from his combat post to catch a short nap.

“I was standing watch, and I couldn’t keep awake,” he said, his voice shaking at times with emotion. “I couldn’t keep my eyes open.”

Shortly thereafter, he said, his unit was under attack by mortar rounds.

“I think about that a lot,” Davis said, looking out at the black half-scale replica of the actual Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. With the assistance of Wall staff, Davis located Jenkins’ name, just as many other visitors did for family, friends, loved ones, or acquaintances of their own whose names are among the more than 58,000 names of service members killed or reported missing in action during the war.

A large crowd attended Monday's opening ceremony for The Wall That Heals.

The Wall will be located on the grounds of The Center through the closing ceremony at noon on Saturday, May 14. This is the only location in Kentucky where The Wall may be viewed by the public in 2011, and loved ones of Kentucky veterans are encouraged to bring a photos of service members whose names are on The Wall to be scanned for a future exhibit in a planned Education Center to be constructed near the actual Wall in Washington, D.C.

At Monday’s kickoff breakfast and opening ceremony, local, state, and national leaders came together in the shadow of The Wall on a bright, sunny day to pay their respects for all veterans and military service personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to country.

“This monument is more than just a recognition of the people whose names appear on The Wall,” U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) told the crowd surrounding The Wall on the front lawn of The Center. “It is also a heart-felt place for all Vietnam Veterans … a place of great release and comfort and feeling of sharing in a great momentous event and occasion that was the war.

“We thank you for your service,” Rogers added, recognizing all military service members in the audience. “We welcome you into our homes and our hearts. We want your peace and comfort, and we want you to know how deeply and profoundly we feel appreciative to your service.”

Jan Scruggs, president and founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), said that during The Wall’s one-week stay at The Center, the VVMF will be collecting photographs of the 1,058 Kentuckians who gave their lives in service to country during the Vietnam War.

Currently the organization only has around 245 photos of those Kentucky service members.

“We want The Center to help generate a significant showing for The Wall, and we encourage people from across Kentucky to visit us and help build the photo collection while the memorial is stationed in our great state,” said Center President and CEO Lonnie Lawson, who also served as event emcee.

Vietnam Veteran Joe Hare of Columbia visits The Wall That Heals

Loved ones can bring photos to the traveling museum, located in the South Parking Lot at The Center, and have those photos scanned onsite while they visit The Wall.

“This will be a place where people will learn about service, sacrifice, duty, and these important values that have been preserved our nation for 200 years,” Scruggs said.

Ret. Brigadier General and Vietnam Veteran Dan Cherry told those in attendance about how he served his country as a decorated fighter pilot in U.S. Air Force, sharing his emotional story of healing and reconciliation with the crowd.

In an intense dogfight over the skies near Hanoi, North Vietnam, Cherry told how he carried out a successful mission in his F-4 Phantom shooting down a North Vietnamese MiG-21.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said.

This veteran had a perfect view of Monday's opening ceremony looking over The Wall.

Nearly 40 years after that mission, Cherry was reunited with the North Vietnamese pilot, and the two became friends. He chronicles this experience in his book, “My Enemy, My Friend – a Story of Reconciliation from the Vietnam War.”

“We want to thank those families who worried and supported their loves ones so much, and continues to support them even today,” Cherry said. “But most of all, we want to be thankful of the courage, bravery, and dedication for all those who paid the ultimate price.”

As part of the opening ceremony, attendees also heard from Chaplain Clarence Floyd of the Somerset American Legion Post 38 Honor Guard, which joined with students from the Southwestern High School JROTC program to parade in the flags of all service branches.

To view more photos of The Wall That Heals Opening Ceremony and set up of The Wall on Sunday, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/centertech/collections/72157626689520360/.

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