The Wall that Heals: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
By Connor Kocis
Attention 716ers, we have an amazing historical and educational opportunity happening right now in our own City of Tonawanda. The Wall that Heals is a three-quarter scale traveling replica wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall located in Washington, DC. The Wall is being displayed at Veterans Memorial Park in the City of Tonawanda until Sunday, July 25, and is open 24/7, day and night.
The replica wall is 375 feet long and 7.5 feet high at its apex peak; visitors experience The Wall rise in front of them as they make their way to its vertex where they reveal two conjoining panels displaying the names of the first soldiers who passed away in 1959 and the last fallen soldiers in 1975. The Wall is constructed of 140 Avonite (synthetic granite) walls, supported by an aluminum frame, and lit with modern LED technology for easy readability at night. The 140 panels contain a total of 58,281 names of all the Vietnam fallen soldiers, arranged in chronological order by date of casualty, then alphabetical order by name for each panel. Accompanying The Wall that Heals is a 53-foot trailer that transforms into a mobile education center displaying portraits of the estimated 800 Hometown Heros from Western New York along with photos and memorabilia from the Vietnam War. If you want to learn more about the spectacle or find a loved one's name on the wall they have volunteers in neon green shirts ready to answer any questions you have and direct you to exactly where the name you’re searching for is.
Overall, my experience was mind-blowing, from the sheer size of The Wall to the captivating stories I heard from volunteers and Veterans as I roamed around soaking in its significance. One anecdote I heard that took my breath away was that the youngest soldier killed in Vietnam was 15 years old. Dan Bullock enlisted in the Marines when he was only 14 years old by altering his birth certificate showing he was born in 1949 when he was actually born in 1953. Bullock died on June 7th, 1969 at the age of 15 making him the youngest soldier killed in Vietnam. Another intriguing story I heard was about one of the eight female nurses whose name appears on the wall, Eleanor G Alexander. Eleanor G Alexander graduated from D’Youville College School of Nursing in 1961 before joining the Army Nurse Corps and being assigned to Vietnam in May of 1967. On November 30th, 1967 she was involved in a transport plane crash taking the lives of 26 men and women after being caught in bad weather and hitting a mountain 5 miles south of Qui Nhon.
These stories along with so many more are just a glimpse of what you’ll learn and witness at The Wall that Heals. I truly had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and found myself in awe at all the wonderful people and knowledge I was able to gain in just a short period of time. I wish I could share all the amazing things I learned in this article but unfortunately, it would be too long, so you will just have to see firsthand its magnitude. Trust me you won’t want to miss this amazing exhibit, it’s only in town until this Sunday so please make some time to get out to Veterans Memorial Park in the City of Tonawanda to learn and see for yourself this emotional and transformative memorial.