A group of local veterans have teamed up to bring “The Wall That Heals,” a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to Moorestown.
Army veteran Dave Walters, who served in Vietnam from 1968-69, said he’s visited the Wall That Heals about 10 times in the last few years, following the mobile memorial to places like Louisiana and Missouri. He first visited the wall about three years ago and when asked to describe the experience, he struggled.
“I don’t know that words could ever be found in any of Webster’s dictionaries (to describe it),” he said. “It was like a flashback … It’s a really moving experience.”
Since then, Walters has strived to bring the wall to Moorestown. He recently began laying the groundwork to bring the wall to town next summer, submitting a request to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and brought together a group of veterans and concerned citizens to make it happen.
Former Citizen of the Year Dave Schill, a Navy veteran, said the group is in the midst of trying to nail down the proper venue for the wall. They need somewhere spacious—the wall is a half scale replica of the D.C. memorial (about 250 feet), and includes a traveling museum and information tent—and quiet.
The group initially looked at Memorial Field—possibly the most appropriate venue for the wall—but because they’ll be hosting the wall during the summer, when there’s a lot of sports activity at the field, it was nixed pretty quickly, said Schill.
Walters said the most recent letter he got from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund offers them a window of June 4-9 to host the wall. While it’s here, the wall must be available to the public 24/7 and guarded the entire time. Volunteers will also be needed to erect the wall.
He considered Lockheed Martin as a possible venue—given its size—but because the wall has to be open 24 hours a day, and Lockheed locks its gates after a certain hour, it presents complications. Walters also looked at the Burlington County Community Agricultural Center site on Centerton Road, as well as a large, open area behind the YMCA.
“There’s a large area behind their building that would give the peaceful setting for something of this nature to be presented,” he said.
Walters expects to nail down the venue within the next week or so. Soon after, the group can begin raising money to fund the hosting of the wall.
“Anybody that we’re discussing this with is not going to lay out a penny,” he said.
Township council discussed hosting the Wall of Healing Monday, when Memorial Field was still on the table. Although since then, Walters’ group has gotten away from hosting the wall on township property, the members of council were enthusiastic about the idea.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” said Mayor John Button.
Though the specifics are still up in the air, Walters said he can guarantee “100 percent” that Moorestown will be visited by the wall next year.
Asked why he continues to visit the wall over and over, and why he’s so eager to bring it home, Walters responded, “I’m hoping I’ll run into somebody I knew in Vietnam, and it gives me a chance to run into others, and others to reach out to me … It’s heartwarming. It shows what America really is.”
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