The Wall That Heals comes to Aiken

By: Jonathan Martin
By: Jonathan Martin

July 6, 2006

It's a day to remember, as a moving memorial pauses in Aiken.

The Vietnam Memorial lists every person who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War.

For those who can't make the trip to Washington, this version is here for you.

Rain or not, people filed by all day long, each one paying their respects to those who gave their lives fighting thousands of miles away.

With 60,000 names on the Wall That Heals, 900 of them South Carolinians, we heard lots of stories of survival and, of course, a lot of reflecting.

It's a tangible tribute and emotion-evoking exhibition.

"It helps, but it doesn't get any better," says Sgt. Jack Sharpe of the South Carolina State Guard. "Even though it's been forty years. But it helps."

One wall, 60,000 names honoring those who gave their all, including their lives, in Vietnam.

"And they say that it's a wall that heals," says Edward Sims of Aiken.

For Vietnam vet Steve Hicks, it's a day to reflect on his best friend.

"He was a black guy. Me being white, back in those days, those types of friends were rare, but we were like brothers," Hicks says.

It's a traveling replica half the size of the memorial in Washington, D.C., but for many living who served in Vietnam, it's a precious sign of patriotism their fallen friends never saw.

"All they knew was the protestors and being called baby killers and spit on," says Vietnam veteran Stuart Prettel. "I wish they were here to see the love and welcoming they would receive."

Inclement weather did not deter nearly 1000 people from seeing the tribute during a special ceremony honoring the veterans.

"Since 230 years ago men have died and fought for this country, and we can never ever forget these men."

The exhibit remains in Aiken until Sunday, when it travels to Sparta, Tennessee. This is the only stop in South Carolina.

It's open 24 hours a day, and if you want to come late, there's extra lighting and security.

The memorial is at Citizens Park. That's at East Pine Log and Banks Mill Road, between Powderhouse and Highway 78.

The Wall That Heals has visited more than 250 communities since it was first unveiled almost ten years ago on Veterans Day, 1996. Millions have seen it.

In 1999, it even traveled to Ireland to honor the Irish-born casualties of the war.


The Wall That Heals

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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