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The wall that has made its way from sea to shining sea for nearly a quarter century, that many feel has the power to heal the wounds of war, will arrive in San Antonio later this month.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) announced it will bring The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., to San Antonio Feb. 28 through March 3. It will be the memorial’s first stop on its 34-city tour across the country this year.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital, with more than 5.3 million visitors each year. The traveling exhibit honors the more than 3 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed forces in the Vietnam War and bears the names of the more than 58,000 men and women who died in Vietnam.
“The Wall That Heals mobile exhibit provides thousands of veterans and their family members the chance to visit The Wall and honor and remember those who have served and sacrificed,” stated Jim Knotts, president and CEO of VVMF. Nearly 400,000 people visited The Wall That Heals exhibit in 2018.
San Antonio was selected from among more than 100 applicants to host the wall during 2019. The exhibit will be hosted locally by the Alamo Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
DAR Regent-Elect Deborah Delgado said she first learned of the traveling exhibit two years ago while hosting 150 veterans and their families at an event in Bulverde. “While I was there, one of the veterans came up to me and asked if we were going to bring The Wall,” Delgado said. “So I did some research, found out there are several replicas of the wall and the main one was in Virginia.”
Delgado submitted an application on behalf of the organization, proposing three different sites in San Antonio. The cemetery seemed ideal because of the number of veterans buried there, she said. The Wall will be installed in an open meadow at the back of the cemetery where there are no graves. The Wall will be illuminated at night.
But before it arrives at the cemetery, a motorcade made up of San Antonio Police Department officers and Patriot Guard Riders will escort the exhibit south on Interstate 35 to Rittiman Road and Harry Wurzbach Road on Feb. 26. The motorcade will assemble at Retama Park at 4 p.m. before starting its slow procession toward the cemetery.
The next day, service members from the Army’s 312th Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Fort Sam will spend about eight hours erecting the wall before the exhibit opens. An opening ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 28 at 10 a.m.
Following the ceremony, The Wall and a mobile education center will be open 24 hours a day until March 3 at 3 p.m., with volunteers there to assist visitors and to stand guard.
One of those standing guard will be Manny Mendoza, a Vietnam-era veteran who served 23 years in the Navy, along with two of his four brothers. Now retired from military service, Mendoza serves in the memorial service detachment and on the day he spoke with the Rivard Report, he had attended nine funerals of veterans as part of the funeral honor guard at the national cemetery.
“I have seen the real wall [in D.C.], and it is a very solemn place,” Mendoza said. “[The replica wall] is an extraordinary … avenue for veterans to be able to unite and come together. And for the DAR to work as hard as they did to bring it to the national cemetery, that’s hallowed ground in San Antonio.”
Delgado said visitors will be permitted to use paper and pencil to take rubbings of names on the wall. A directory of names will be provided for visitors to find the name of a loved one on The Wall, and names can also be located via a smartphone app. “Plus, for those veterans who have never received a welcome home, we will be welcoming them home and giving them the commemorative pin and certificate they deserve,” she said.
To host the exhibit, DAR members raised $10,000 by reaching out to other patriot and heritage groups like theirs. Those funds go toward upkeep and transportation of the memorial. USAA is a major sponsor. The nonprofit VVMF organization’s mission is to preserve the legacy of The Wall, which is meant to promote healing and education about the impact of the Vietnam War.
After The Wall’s stay in San Antonio, it will travel to Casa Grande, Arizona, then return to Texas on May 2, visiting the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Lewisville.