Vietnam memorial brings memory and honor to Warrenton

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 9/15/22

Beginning last Thursday evening and continuing without interruption through Sunday afternoon, visitors to Warrenton had the rare opportunity to experience The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter scale …

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Vietnam memorial brings memory and honor to Warrenton

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Beginning last Thursday evening and continuing without interruption through Sunday afternoon, visitors to Warrenton had the rare opportunity to experience The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The wall and an associated educational display travel the country, offering communities a chance to reflect on the more than 58,000 names of missing or killed service members who are etched into the black panels.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Mike Brandt, a Vietnam-era pilot, delivered an address to gathered visitors as part of the opening ceremony for the wall on Sept. 8. He called on visitors to learn about the lives represented by unfamiliar names on the wall, in order to understand  the gravity of what had been given in service to the nation.

“It’s important that we continue to honor their sacrifice and commitment, not only from them but from their families who were at home and suffered as well,” Brandt said. “If you want to remember somebody, you have to know them.”

“We all went over there to serve,” Brandt added. “We wanted to meet the challenge, make our families proud, and most of all, not let our buddies down, regardless of the circumstances.”

Across the three days of the wall’s visit, hundreds of people were able to see it and reflect on the names listed there, as well as learn from the education center at the site. It was common to see families of two or three generations walking the wall, or examining historical information about the Vietnam War. A display of personal items left behind at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington also held attention for many visitors.

Mixed among those visitors were dozens of local volunteers who gave their time to help visitors find the names and information they were looking for. 

“It was such a humbling experience to be part of. More people showed up to escort it than we expected, more came to volunteer than we expected. More showed up to visit than we expected. It was just amazing,” said Stacey Blondin, one of the local co-organizers who helped plan the wall’s visit.

Every day that the wall was in Warrenton was a chance for area veterans and their families, who still bear the hurt and the scars of Vietnam and other conflicts, to find solace in the physical reminder that those who died are being honored and remembered. Volunteers who helped visitors find the names of friends and family on the wall were honored to hear the stories of those names, Blondin said.

“One combat veteran came to help set up the wall. We were able to find the panel that his lieutenant was on. He carried his lieutenant out of the war (after) he was killed in action. He got to carry that panel and put it into place on the wall,” Blondin commented. “He said it was about the same length to carry his lieutenant from the war zone as it was to carry the panel to the wall.”

Blondin recalled another particularly meaningful encounter on Saturday afternoon, when she was asked to assist a woman who was visiting from out of town with her daughter and granddaughter.

“A lady asked me if I could help her find a gentleman on the wall. I looked up his name in the directory and was able to pull his picture up, and she looked at it and started crying,” Blondin said. “It was her brother. He had passed away when she was a little girl, and she hadn’t seen a picture of him in years. That was very moving.”

Blondin said she was proud of the huge outpouring of support from local community leaders and volunteers who worked together to help plan the event and make it successful. Once they were able to see how much the wall meant to those visiting, many of the volunteers didn’t want to leave.

“It was an amazing experience. ... I’ve never been part of anything like it,” Blondin said. “I was so sad to watch it go away. I asked where it’s going next, because I might go visit it.”

Vic Muschler, a local resident and the site manager for the wall’s visit to Warrenton, said he was grateful for the reception.

“We are happy with the community support from the volunteers to the setup and takedown crews,” Muschler said. “The most important thing was we reached over 300 students to provide a better understanding and education of the Vietnam era. And I personally saw the healing occurring for veterans and their families.”

To view a gallery of photos from the Wall That Heals exhibit, click this link.

Wall That Heals, Vietnam, Memorial

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