By Rebecca Jones, special to the News-Times
CARTERET COUNTY — John Thompson of Carteret County served June 1966 thru July 1967 in Vietnam for the U.S. Army. John said, “The first few months there was a lot of confusion and disorganization. We lived out of duffle bags for weeks and learned to hustle to a bunker quickly when the sirens went off.”
The Vietnam War was a long, harrowing experience for America, marked by intense media coverage and political turbulence in all corners of the nation.
The death toll of American soldiers was 58,318, and the average age of those was a mere 23 years old. Although John did not lose anyone he knew personally, he lost over half a dozen to Agent Orange sickness over the years and knows of some still suffering from Agent Orange and requiring intense treatments.
But he has been to The Wall That Heals in Washington D.C. and knows the ultimate sacrifice of men and women who served. Now that wall travels across America for those who cannot make the trip.
The Wall That Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. is designed to travel to communities throughout the United States. Since 1996, it has been displayed at nearly 700 communities throughout the nation, spreading the memorial’s healing legacy to millions.
The replica is 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet high at its tallest point. Visitors experience the wall rising above them as they walk towards the apex, a key feature of the design of the wall in D.C. Like the original memorial, The Wall That Heals is erected in a chevron-shape, and visitors can do name rubbings of individual service member’s names on the wall.
The replica is constructed of Avonite, a synthetic granite, and its 140 numbered panels are supported by an aluminum frame. Machine engraving of the more than 58,000 names, along with modern LED lighting, provide readability of the wall day and night. The names on The Wall That Heals are listed by day of casualty.
Beginning at the center/apex, the names start on the east wall (right-hand side), working their way out to the end of that wing, picking up again at the far end of the west wall (left-hand side) and working their way back in to the center/apex, joining the beginning and end of the conflict at the center.
The Wall that Heals traveled by truck from Morehead City on Tuesday, escorted by the New Bern Police motorcycle division, along with eastern North Carolina motorcycle and classic car clubs. It was slated to arrive at Lawson Creek about 5:15 p.m. On Thursday, a ceremony with keynote speaker retired Army 2nd Lt. Jane Knowles, a nurse in Vietnam, will be held.
The event will include a MIA/POW ceremony and closing “Taps.” The closing ceremony will be on Sunday with keynote speaker Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North. The public showing for the wall will end at 3 p.m.