‘The Wall That Heals’ Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica officially opens for viewing
BLACKFOOT — While it has been assembled and on display at Jensen’s Grove Park in Blackfoot since Wednesday, The Wall That Heals officially opened with a ceremony Thursday evening.
The Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., will be open for viewing 24 hours a day until it closes at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were two officers from Idaho Army National Guard, both of whom are natives of eastern Idaho.
Brigadier General Farin D. Schwartz, who was born in Mud Lake, just east of Rexburg, spoke to the significance of The Wall. He explained that every time he visits the original memorial in D.C., he finds the name of Verle J Skidmore, a Marine Lance Corporal from Mud Lake who died in combat on May 10, 1968. Schwartz spoke passionately about the news of Skidmore’s death reaching the lance corporal’s family in Idaho, and how that same kind of devastating news was delivered thousands of times across the country.
“This wall represents their memories, and the legacies they left behind,” he said. “All of these 58,000 heroes answered the call and deserve our appreciation and gratitude.”
Schwartz also addressed the 10 or so living veterans of the Vietnam War in attendance.
“You were never welcomed home, and I would like to take this opportunity,” he said before pausing to fight back his emotions, “to say welcome home, heroes.”
The Wall, which is roughly three-quarters the size of the original, stretches 375 feet across the park and stands 7-1/2 feet at its highest point in the center. Etched into the wall are the names of the 58,281 service members who lost their lives over the course of the war.
Command Sgt. Major Kevin A. Dean, a Blackfoot-area native, spoke to the changed time in which we live and asked the Blackfoot community to embrace the experience it has before it.
“I cannot imagine what our Vietnam veterans endured during and after their service,” he said. “The world was a different place, our society was in a different place. Now that, as a country, we do recognize their sacrifices and we do appreciate them, this replica is a way to remind us of that period in time, and never forget their sacrifices.”
“You know, the Vietnam War started right about the time I was born,” Karole Honas, the celebration’s emcee said, “and it ended right about the time I went to college. So the Vietnam War is my entire childhood.”
Like Schwartz and Dean, Honas encouraged eastern Idahoans to not just visit The Wall while it is in town but to touch it.
“The first time I saw the Vietnam Veterans Wall, I didn’t know what 58,000 looked like,” she added. “Who has ever had a comprehension of that many people.”
Along with The Wall itself, the traveling installation, which took approximately 50 people nearly five hours to set up, includes a Hometown Heroes exhibit highlighting the Blackfoot natives who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Lance Corporal Verle J. Skidmore’s name can be found on panel E58, line 15.