‘Wall That Heals’ has mission of remembrance


DOVER — Hundreds of people gathered at the “Wall that Heals” Thursday morning under cloudy skies to pay respects to those who died in the Vietnam War.

The traveling wall is a replica, about half the size of the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. Panels list the names, in order of date of death, of more than 58,000 service men and women.

The Wall that Heals will be open to the public today and Saturday, 24 hours a day, on the grounds next to the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park on South Little Creek Road in Dover for people to reflect.

For John Rowan, national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, he thinks it is also important that Americans think about the thousands of names not on the wall.

Mr. Rowan was one of a number of speakers at an opening ceremony held by Kent County Chapter 850 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“These are the most public names,” he said. “We know who they are. It’s the ones we don’t know who also made sacrifices in Vietnam. After the war, many more Vietnam veterans have passed on.”

After reading a passage called “The Other Side of the Wall,” he talked about lives impacted by suicide and cancers from Agent Orange.

In particular, he wanted to mention a friend, Jimmy Harbeson, who had died of cancer.

Mr. Harbeson, he said, was one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans Delaware council and “helped build the Wall.”

The Wall, said Mr. Rowan, is symbolic of the unfortunate aspect of war — “those we lost.”

“It’s the most visible sign of our loss,” Mr. Rowan said. “I think that’s the one thing that people get when they go to the Vietnam Wall.

“This may be a smaller version, but it’s the same number of names.”

Paul Davis, president of the Delaware Vietnam Veterans of America, welcomed hundreds of people to the ceremony Thursday,

“First, I’d like to acknowledge our brothers and sisters who are in attendance today that were actually in Vietnam,” said Mr. Davis. “I just want to say, ‘welcome home,’ For those of you who are here today and had a family member who was lost in the war, I just want to say to you publicly that you are now in our family. Our family will always exist. Our family will look up at those on that wall who gave their life for this country.”

Lawrence Kirby, executive director of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, told the gathering that a wall usually is thought of as something that divides, whether it be neighbors’ yards or a country that did not want communism.

“The Wall that Heals is different,” he said. “It eliminates barriers through the intricate listing of names.”

He said veterans read the names and think about friendships and conversations from barracks and chow halls and thoughts about returning home.

For family members it brings back memories of their children, how they looked in uniform.

“This wall is powerful,” Mr. Kirby said. “It is my wish that families and veterans are brought together in peace by its healing properties,

“Each name identifies a hero.”

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