Memorial wall: More than a list

MARSHALL – It’s known as “The Wall That Heals.” And for several years now, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. has been carrying that message of healing around the country.

Area residents will get the chance to see the traveling wall this week, as it makes its first-ever stop in the city of Marshall.

“There are a lot of people who can’t make it to Washington, D.C.,” said Bruce Knieff, chairman of the local Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall Committee.

Organizers hope visiting the traveling wall will give more people the experience of seeing the memorial.

The Traveling Memorial Wall will arrive in Marshall on Wednesday, and will be on display Thursday through Sunday at Independence Park. A special opening ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. Friday. The program includes a keynote address by Mark Madsen, the State Council President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and a special remembrance of area servicemen killed in the Vietnam War.

The event is one that’s been about three years in the making, Knieff said.

“There’s been a lot of work by a lot of people,” he said. In addition to the committee working to bring the Traveling Memorial Wall to town, groups including the city of Marshall and Lyon County, area American Legion and VFW posts, Southwest Minnesota State University and private businesses have all come forward to support the event.

The special events that go with the Traveling Memorial Wall will start Wednesday, as the wall is trucked into town. Knieff said the wall will be escorted by the Marshall and Slayton Fire Departments, the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department and members of the Patriot Guard Riders on their motorcycles.

“This is being treated exactly like a funeral escort,” he said. Marshall Police will be directing traffic as the procession follows a route from U.S. Highway 59 to Minnesota Highway 23, and then from Highway 23 to East Lyon Street, Knieff said.

The Traveling Memorial Wall is a three-fifths scale reproduction of the wall in Washington, D.C. At its tallest point, the traveling wall is six feet high. The names of more than 58,000 American servicepeople who died in the Vietnam War are engraved on the wall.

“It’s as close a replica as you can get,” Knieff said.

The wall display will be open round-the-clock, and there will be security present to guard it, Knieff said. In addition, there will be a traveling exhibit called “through the eyes,” which features photographs, military weaponry and other artifacts from the Vietnam War. A smaller memorial wall dedicated to prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action will be on display in the Park Side Elementary School gymnasium, across the street from Independence Park.

Organizers encourage the public to come out to the park to visit the Traveling Memorial Wall, and to attend the opening ceremony. Knieff said motorized carts will be available at the display for visitors who need assistance.

Seating at the opening ceremony is limited, however, so visitors are asked to bring along folding chairs.