A week of daily military observances begins Monday at The Center for Rural Development when local, state, and national leaders gather at the site of The Wall That Heals—the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and Museum—to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect America’s freedom.
The Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the actual wall in Washington, D.C., is making its only Kentucky stop of 2011 at The Center in Somerset from May 9-14.
The exhibit, which contains the names of more than 58,000 service members killed or reported missing in action during the war, will be set up in the yard area to the right of The Center’s front entrance.
At Monday’s free kickoff breakfast, set to begin at 9:30 a.m., Ret. Brigadier General and Vietnam Veteran Dan Cherry will share an emotional story of healing and reconciliation when he was reunited nearly 40 years later after the war with a Vietnamese pilot he shot down in a dogfight near Hanoi, North Vietnam.
Cherry, a decorated fighter pilot with the U.S. Air Force, chronicles this remarkable story in his book, “My Enemy…My Friend, a Story of Reconciliation from the Vietnam War.”
Other guests invited to speak at the opening ceremony include: U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), who served in the Kentucky and North Carolina National Guard from 1957-64 and is a member of the National Guard and Reserve Caucus; Commissioner Ken Lucas, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs; Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center; and Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF).
In conjunction with The Wall That Heals traveling exhibit, VVMF is partnering with the state of Kentucky on an initiative to collect photographs of all 1,058 Kentuckians whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for a future project in Washington. Visitors can bring their photos of loved ones whose names are listed and have them scanned at the exhibit.
There is no admission charge to view The Wall or attend any of the daily military observances. After the Monday, May 9 free breakfast and opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m., other daily activities include:
Tuesday, May 10
- Wreath-laying ceremony: The event will involve Somerset Armed Forces recruiting officials from all four branches in addition to the National Guard. Participants will speak on the special significance of the ceremony to each branch.
Wednesday, May 11
- Special speaking: Representatives of the DAV and AMVETS will speak on the healing nature of The Wall.
Thursday, May 12
- Miniature American flag event: Southwestern JROTC members will place 200 miniature American flags—donated by the Somerset Woodmen of the World agency—around The Wall. A representative of Somerset’s American Legion Post 38 Honor Guard will speak on the meaning of the ceremonial folding of the American flag at military events.
Friday, May 13
- Public reading of Kentucky and Pulaski County names on The Wall: Representatives of the local VFW and Pulaski Vets organizations will conduct a reading of the names of all 1,058 Kentucky service members whose names are on The Wall.
Saturday, May 14
- Closing ceremony: Somerset’s American Legion Post 38 Honor Guard will conduct a closing ceremony with full military honors. CDR USN Ret. Derek George will speak on the Vietnam War. Local JROTC students will also participate in the ceremony.
For more information on The Wall That Heals, contact The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000, visit centertech.com, or www.vvmf.org/twth.
The Center for Rural Development is located at 2292 South U.S. 27 (at Traffic Light 15) in Somerset.