Community members braved the cold and drizzle to visit The Wall That Heals at Stephenville City Park Thursday morning.
The traveling exhibit honors the more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. armed forces in the Vietnam War, and it bears the names of more than 58,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The exhibit arrived in Stephenville on Tuesday. (For video of that arrival, visit the E-T’s Facebook page.)
“It’s an honor to be able to experience this,” said 28-year-old Samantha Armstrong.
“I never knew anybody that served but it affected a lot of people,” said Stephenville resident Nick Perez. “One of my friends from high school, her dad is over there on the wall. I was wanting to come see what it’s about and see if I can find his name. It's pretty touching. People don’t understand the sacrifice that’s been made.”
Some veterans came to view The Wall That Heals and paid their respects to friends and family they lost to the war.
“I’m a Vietnam veteran and I was stationed with a guy who lived next door to me and he had a little boy the same age as my little boy,” said Stephenville resident Dick Comerford. “He was a fighter pilot and he got shot down and he never made it back. His name is on there. As soon as I could, I came to say hi.”
“Calling it The Wall That Heals is extremely appropriate,” said U.S. Army veteran John McCarthy. “It's a challenge to walk up to it, but it does heal. It does help. The way we were treated when we came home and now you actually acknowledge it, and doing this brings people that didn’t know what the war was about and they’re able to see the cost, so I think [The Wall] is fantastic.”
Stephenville was one of 33 towns selected out of the 130 applicants for the wall to come to the community.
“It's a privilege and honor to come to your community, but it's your community that brought us because there’s only two paid employees with this whole operation,” said Vic Muschler, site manager for The Wall That Heals. “It's an honor to be able to bring it to the veterans that can’t make it to D.C, but out of the walls that are traveling, we are the only ones that’s attached to the actual founders of the wall in D.C. The other ones are privately held. Nobody has the education center like us. We've got some of the 400,000 items that have been left at the wall in D.C. It’s the only place in the country you will ever see those items, because all of the other items are maintained in a warehouse in Washington D.C.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public 24 hours a day through 2 p.m. Sunday.
“We hope that people come out and visit us and get the experience of the wall. The wall is beautiful at night,” Muschler added.