There are 58,318 names engraved in the black granite slabs that make up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Thirty-seven of those came from Huntsville. If you aren’t related to someone who fought in Vietnam, chances are you know someone or you’ve met someone or you’ve seen some elderly man proudly sporting one of those black Vietnam Veterans caps around town.
If you’ve ever been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, you know it’s overwhelming in its magnitude. That number, 58,318 doesn’t look that big when it’s written down, but when you see every name spelled out, you begin to see just how many Americans gave their life for their country just in the Vietnam war.
Still, some people, even some who were in the Vietnam War, won’t ever be able to make the trek to Washington D.C. For those people, a group has started a mobile, three-quarter scale model of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall called The Wall That Heals. The wall, along with an informational trailer, goes to a handful of cities each year.
In 2018, thanks to the work of Kelly Pardew and several dozen committee members led by main sponsor, Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation, Huntsville veterans got to experience The Wall That Heals first-hand. She was on a team who bid for the wall to come to Huntsville.
The Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1067 is active in North Alabama and serves as a place for veterans to meet and greet and talk (or not talk) about their time in the service. Chapter 1067 was also integral in helping get The Wall that Heals back to Huntsville.
In just four days, more than 10,000 people came to see The Wall that Heals in November 2018.
Back to Huntsville
Each year, the wall goes to 20 or 30 locations across the US. This is the second time in 20 years that the Wall that Heals has come to Huntsville.
“It’s a way for people to visit the wall without going to D.C.,” Kelly said. “Certainly many of (the Vietnam veterans) can’t — whether it’s due to health or finances — so it’s a way to bring the wall to them.”
This is the second version of The Wall that Heals. The first one was smaller and made from a different material with printed names. This one, Kelly said, has that same granite feel as the original, and you can even make a rubbing of a name.
“For four days, the public streams in and it’s just amazing how many veterans there are, specifically Vietnam veterans, here in the Huntsville and Northern Alabama area,” Kelly said.
Hearing the Stories
While the wall was in Huntsville, Kelly volunteered to help people find the names of their family members and friends who died or were wounded in the war. They aren’t listed alphabetically; instead, the wall lists names based on when they died or were wounded in action.
“It was just amazing how total strangers started pouring their hearts out to me, telling me the story of this person and how they died and how great they were,” Kelly said.
One veteran who stood out to Kelly was a man whose driver was killed in action when their convoy was attacked. The man was only spared because the first blast knocked him out of the vehicle.
“It was really intense, but wonderful all at the same time to be there and listen to the stories,” Kelly said. “That’s how people live on — you remember them and you talk about them.”
That might be a problem in other parts of the country, but in Huntsville, we will never stop talking about our veterans. There are too many, and we have far too much respect for them.