Vietnam Memorial Replica to Bring Messages of Healing, Honor on Visit
The Wall That Heals to Begin 5-Day Stay Near Library Next Week, Will Be Saluted with Welcome Ceremony
The Wall That Heals, a 250-foot, half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., has visited more than 350 cities in the U.S.
Though he has been to Washington, D.C., twice, UT Dallas student Harold Williams decided each time he visited the National Mall that he didn’t want to get too close to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“It was probably emotional,” the Vietnam War vet said. “My take on it — it’s about the waste of lives. I never got closer to it than a hundred yards. I was just content to gaze on it from there.”
Williams joined the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school, was rushed through boot camp and shipped off to Vietnam as an infantryman from 1970 to 1971.
“We didn’t have to leave and go back for another tour like they do now. When you were done, you had nothing left,” he said.
Williams, who will receive a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in December, will help honor fellow Vietnam veterans during an upcoming special exhibit at the University.
The Wall That Heals, a half-scale, 250-foot replica of the memorial, will be exhibited from sunset Wednesday, Nov. 19, through noon Sunday, Nov. 23, on the east lawn of the Eugene McDermott Library off Drive G.
Williams will be one of several local veterans speaking during a public welcome ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 21. The ceremony also will feature a flyover by the Cavanaugh Flight Museum and a 21-gun salute by an honor guard from a local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
The keynote speaker will be U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and prisoner of war for nearly seven years. Johnson serves the 3rd District of Texas, which includes much of Collin County.
The Wall has been exhibited at more than 350 cities throughout the U.S. It is designed to honor those who served in the Vietnam War and to provide a place of healing for families and friends.
An on-site mobile museum will display artifacts and information for veterans and their families, school groups and the public about The Wall, the Vietnam War and the era surrounding the conflict.
About 9 million Americans served in the U.S. armed forces from 1959 to 1975, with some 3 million serving in Vietnam. More than 58,000 Americans died and more than 300,000 were wounded in the war. About 91 percent of those who returned said they were proud to have served, and 85 percent successfully reintegrated to civilian life, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
But anti-war sentiment had grown in the 1960s and led to organized protests. Returning Vietnam veterans often bore the brunt of criticism.
When: 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 21
Where: Eugene McDermott Library East Lawn, Drive G
Guest speaker: U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, retired Air Force colonel and former POW in Vietnam
Other: Flyover by Cavanaugh Flight Museum (weather permitting)
To RSVP for the ceremony (suggested) and request a parking permit, please email [email protected]. For other questions, please contact Angus McColl at 972-883-2326.
The opening of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982 in Washington, D.C., began the process of national healing, said Angus McColl, assistant vice president for corporate relations at UT Dallas and a 24-year U.S. Navy veteran.
“Unlike veterans from other wars in our nation’s history, Vietnam veterans did not receive a proper homecoming,” he said. “By bringing The Wall That Heals to UT Dallas, we want to remember those members of the armed forces who died in Vietnam while also honoring all those who served there.”
Williams said he expects to experience some “mental anguish” upon seeing The Wall replica. After working 30 years as a paralegal in Dallas, he returned to school to be able to teach college history. But he will never forget his year in Vietnam, where he was “just a grunt, a foot soldier.”
“It was hard to get close to anyone because you never knew who was going to be next. You couldn’t tell friend from foe, and each step you took could be dangerous. If you survived the first four or five months, you sort of became numb to it,” he said.
Admission to The Wall That Heals is free and open to the public 24 hours a day.
Donations will go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation for the construction of a visitors center near the original memorial in Washington, D.C.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].