While most walls are meant to keep people out, The Mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall aspires to bring people together.
A half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. will be on display for public viewing at Montebello City Park starting today and closing on April 17.
Etched with the names of over 58,300 men and women who were killed or went missing in action while serving in the Vietnam War, the Palmdale-based mobile wall aims to pay tribute to those who not only served, but were also mistreated when they returned home from the widely unpopular war.
“Montebello is a very patriotic city, there’s a lot of veterans that live in Montebello or the surrounding areas,” said Commander Max Avalos of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22, the group that spent two years working to bring the Wall to the city for the first time,
According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial database, six of the names on the wall belong to men from Montebello.
The memorial presentation will feature an opening day ceremony Friday at 5 p.m., along with the nightly playing of Taps, a bugle call played during flag ceremonies and military funerals.
“Out motto is to ‘keep the promise,’” explained Avalos. “The promise evolved from our country’s failure to recognize Vietnam veterans when they returned.”
Avalos recalls there was a lot of animosity toward veterans during and after the Vietnam War. Back then, he said, you didn’t see the celebrations you see now for soldiers returning from war.
“You have to have lived through the 60s to understand the public was not happy” with what went on in Vietnam, and veterans paid the price for that anger, Avalos recalled. “Once the war was over, veterans were forgotten.”
Many of the soldiers who survived are today still feeling the impact of the war, according to Avalos. Whether it’s from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or long-term illnesses associated with Agent Orange, a chemical used by the U.S. military during Vietnam jungle warfare that led to a higher number of cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and various other forms of cancer in veterans, they are still suffering the consequences of their service, he said.
Steve Willis with The Mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall project said they will have staff on hand to help people locate the names of loved ones on the Memorial Wall. Gold Star families, those with relatives whose names are on the Wall, will also be recognized.
“Our mission is educate the younger generation about what happened” during the Vietnam War and after, said Willis.
Willis says emotions often come to the surface during these events, at times compelling people to share their stories. Others choose to commemorate their visit with a keepsake rubbing of a name on the Wall.
The nightly playing of Taps is a way to honor the fallen veterans, says Avalos. “It symbolizes that even in the darkness we’ll still see you the next day,” he said.
“We must never forget we lost over 58,000 young Americans” in the war, he stressed.
The Point Man Antelope Valley (PMAV), a nonprofit veterans outreach organization, raised funds to build the replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall – known as the AV Wall – after finding it difficult to get a replica to Palmdale for viewing. The AV Wall is now one of five mobile Walls in the country and the only one traveling on the west coast. It is the most accurate replica, according to Willis.
“It’s such a simple thing, but it’s a great honor for veterans,” he told EGP.
Willis explained the Wall allows people to put aside things that may divide them, as do literal walls.
“[The Wall] spans race, culture, languages and everything else across the board,” Willis said, referring to the people who make the journey to see the memorial.
“They’re not this, that or the other, they are people that share a common grief.”