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Individuals pay their respects to the servicemen and women who gave their lives in the Vietnam War at “The Wall That Heals,” which will be on display on the Athens Campus Sept. 14-17.

Individuals pay their respects to the servicemen and women who gave their lives in the Vietnam War at “The Wall That Heals,” which will be on display on the Athens Campus Sept. 14-17.

Photo courtesy of: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

“The Wall That Heals” will arrive in Athens on Sept. 13 on a tractor-trailer that also serves as a mobile education center.

“The Wall That Heals” will arrive in Athens on Sept. 13 on a tractor-trailer that also serves as a mobile education center.

Photo courtesy of: Ranalla Photography

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Replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial to arrive on campus Sept. 13, be on display Sept. 14-17

Public invited to participate in motorcycle escort, Welcoming Ceremony

More than 47 years after protests against the expansion of the Vietnam War led to the closing of Ohio University and the cancelling of spring Commencement, OHIO’s Athens Campus is preparing to welcome a symbol of recognition for those who served and died in that conflict.

At 6 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14, “The Wall That Heals” will officially open at OHIO’s Bicentennial Park, located at Richland Avenue and South Green Drive on the Athens Campus. A half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., “The Wall That Heals” will remain open 24 hours a day until noon on Sunday, Sept. 17.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund unveiled “The Wall That Heals” on Veterans Day 1996 as part of its mission to honor and preserve the legacy of service and educate all generations about the impact of the Vietnam War. “The Wall That Heals” is about 250 feet long, and its 24 individual panels are erected in a chevron shape. Like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the more than 58,300 names on “The Wall That Heals” are listed by day of casualty. 

One of the most-visited memorials in Washington, D.C., the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by Athens native Maya Lin who studied computer programming at Ohio University while in high school and whose parents both worked at the University. An internationally renowned artist and architectural designer, Lin also designed the earthwork installation, titled “Input,” at the center of OHIO’s Bicentennial Park.

“Given the support the University provides to our veterans on campus and the support that is available to the many members in our community who have served our country, I think Athens is the perfect place to host this wall,” said Brian Heilmeier, senior assistant director for student activities at OHIO’s Campus Involvement Center. 

Ohio University is one of more than 40 communities on the 2017 national tour of “The Wall That Heals.” The Athens Campus visit is being spearheaded by the Campus Involvement Center and OHIO’s Brigadier General James M. Abraham and Colonel Arlene F. Greenfield Veterans and Military Student Services Center with support from partners through the University and Athens communities.

“This event has really taken on a life of its own,” said Dave Edwards Sr., director of OHIO’s Veterans and Military Student Services Center and a U.S. Air Force veteran. “As soon as people within the University and in the community first heard about this event, they were asking, ‘What can we do to help? How can we be involved? How can we help?’ It’s been really wonderful to see the outpouring of support.”

There are several ways for individuals to get involved in “The Wall That Heals” visit, starting on Wednesday, Sept. 13, when the wall will arrive in Athens on a tractor-trailer. During most tour stops, “The Wall That Heals” is escorted into the host community by motorcyclists, and the Athens tour stop will be no exception.

The motorcycle escort will begin at Millstone BBQ, located at 12790 Grey St. in Logan. Motorcyclists interested in participating in that escort are asked to be at the restaurant by 9 a.m. Ohio University will be providing one University bus for individuals who don’t ride motorcycles but want to participate in the escort. The bus will be leaving Baker University Center at 8 a.m. Space on the bus is limited, and those interested in reserving a seat on the bus are asked to email Brian Heilmeier at heilmeie@ohio.edu.  

The motorcycle escort will leave Millstone BBQ at 10 a.m., heading east on Route 33 toward Athens. The escort will be led by troopers from the State Highway Patrol. The escort will exit Route 33 at the Route 682 exit in The Plains where officers from the Ohio University Police Department will then lead the escort south on Route 682 to the Athens Campus.

Upon arriving at Ohio University’s Bicentennial Park, members of OHIO’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) will assist members of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in erecting “The Wall That Heals,” a process that takes approximately three hours.

Adding to “The Wall That Heals” experience, the tractor-trailer that carries “The Wall That Heals” also houses a mobile education center that features exhibits designed to tell the story of the Vietnam War and the era surrounding the conflict as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The exhibits include photos of service members whose names are found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well as letters and memorabilia left at the memorial in Washington, D.C. 

“The Wall That Heals” and its mobile education center will open to the public at 6 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14. Volunteers will be on hand to assist those visiting the wall.

A Welcoming Ceremony will be held at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, at Bicentennial Park. The approximately 45-minute program will include remarks from Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis; Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who is a retired U.S. Air Force major; and Col. Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services who is retired from the U.S. Army. In addition, the Paint Valley JROTC’s Corps of Cadets, under the direction of retired Air Force Master Sgt. John Wilson, will perform with its flag corps and drill teams. 

Edwards noted that “The Wall That Heals” visit will coincide with OHIO’s annual Parents Weekend and is one of a few opportunities in the community that week to honor heroes. 

On Sept. 10, OHIO’s Army ROTC Program will be hosting its third annual 9/11 Stair Challenge and memorial ceremony in observation of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and in honor of the lives lost and the heroism displayed by first responders on that tragic day. The event calls on members of the OHIO and local communities to run 2,071 steps in Peden Stadium in tribute to the 2,071 steps in one of the World Trade Center’s two towers. Registration starts at 8 a.m., and the event kicks off at 9 a.m.

In addition, the Sept. 16 OHIO Football game against the University of Kansas is the team’s annual Heroes Game, held in honor of veterans, current military members and first responders. Kickoff is at noon, and heroes will be saluted throughout the game with PA and message board announcements. Halftime will include an ROTC swearing-in ceremony.

“It’s really going to be a wonderful week of honoring heroes,” Edwards said, “but one that’s centered on Vietnam.”

When asked what he hopes visitors to “The Wall That Heals” take away from the experience, Edwards said, “The military took the brunt of the anger and frustration during that era and didn’t have the community support. So some 50 years later, we’re seeing that embracement of an era that could have really split this country apart. I see this an opportunity to remember those who, many of them felt called to go, and many of them paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we have today; to bridge some generational gaps; to reflect upon and talk about what occurred; and hopefully to bring some healing and repair some old wounds.”

Terry St. Peter, coordinator of veterans services and academic advisor in OHIO’s Veterans and Military Student Services Center and a retired member of the U.S. Army, echoed Edwards’ sentiments and noted two veterans organizations that have been instrumental in helping to plan the wall visit – AMVETS Post 76 in Athens and Albany VFW Post 9893.

“This is an opportunity to bring the experience of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to Southeast Ohio and an opportunity for us to celebrate and show appreciation for the sacrifices of a generation that didn’t receive that at the time that they served our country,” St. Peter said. 

St. Peter shared an experience he had a few years ago when the local Veterans Day Parade coincided with the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. Cadets in OHIO’s ROTC programs carried a banner in the parade thanking the Vietnam veterans.

“We had some teary-eyed veterans come up to us after and thanked us for it, and I received two letters at our ROTC office thanking us for a nice tribute to them and their service,” St. Peter said. “It was very touching, and I think that’s why this upcoming event is really resonating with me because I think it’s going to resonate well with the veterans in our community.”

“This event is one that both the community and the University can get behind and support,” said Heilmeier. “It’s a great way to bring everybody together for whatever the wall means to you.”

Volunteers needed to staff display

Volunteers from the Ohio University community are needed to staff "The Wall That Heals" display during four- to five-hour shifts that begin at 6 a.m. on Sept. 14 and run through noon on Sept. 17. For more information, click here