The Wall That Heals, a traveling half-scale exhibit of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., arrived in the city on Tuesday under bright blue skies and near-perfect weather.
Fifty-eight thousand names arrived in Blue Springs Tuesday afternoon, carrying with them shadows of pain and loss.
They’ll depart Sunday night, leaving behind a sense of hope and healing.
The Wall That Heals, a traveling half-scale exhibit of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., arrived in the city on Tuesday under bright blue skies and near-perfect weather. Packed tightly in a 53-foot trailer and escorted by the Patriot Guard and members of local law enforcement far and wide, the replica was placed in its temporary home at Pink Hill Park until Sunday evening.
On Adams Dairy Parkway, just off Interstate 70, the first trickle of motorcycles traveled south at about 1:15 p.m.
One, two, three, four – and then more and more, each rider lifting his or her hand in greeting to the several people who watched them and the wall pass by.
One was Phillip Macke of Blue Springs. He came to videotape the event.
“I just wanted to come see it come into town,” he said, a thick leather jacket hugging his chest. “I didn’t serve, but my uncle did. He’s seen the actual wall in D.C. once. He said he got what he wanted from it, so he doesn’t want to see it again.
“But I’ve always wanted to see some version of it.”
There was little to see of the actual wall on Tuesday. Motorcycles ruled the day, and their numbers foretold the significance of the event. Organizers estimate that as many as 100,000 people will visit the replica during its four-day visit.
Open 24 hours a day, it officially opens to the public at 6:55 a.m. Thursday following a special ceremony.
Jan Scruggs, who conceived the idea of building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be the featured speaker at the opening ceremony Thursday morning.
“(Jan) felt that this was going to be special, one of the best public displays,” said Kim Nakahodo, the Blue Springs city spokesperson.
The overall emotion of its arrival wasn’t lost on Dave Miller.
“We are honored to escort the Wall That Heals from Concordia to Blue Springs,” said Dave Miller, Patriot Guard ride captain of Greater Kansas City.
“Most of us know someone whose name is on the wall or served in Vietnam. We are doing this out of respect because when they came back from Vietnam, they didn’t get the respect they deserved.”
In addition to the wall, an information center and a variety of educational exhibits will be on site to help educate the public about the conflict and its effect on the nation.
Michael Gormalley, a retired senior director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars national headquarters, said Blue Springs had gone beyond what most communities typically do for the event.
“A lot of communities do a great job, don’t get me wrong, but Blue Springs did a great job because it emphasized education,” Gormalley said. “And the city got many organizations to help. It (is) a community effort.”
Blue Springs also differs from other communities, Gormalley said, because the city plans to greet each and every veteran who comes to the event.
“They’re respectfully recognizing all who served,” he said. “And that’s special.”
Special activities include a daily awakening and reflection ceremonies and military flyovers on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, the names of the 199 service members from Jackson County listed on the wall will be read during a special ceremony.
Standing before the trailer, Gormalley said it takes a team about 15 to 20 hours to put the 24 panels together. Work will begin at 8 a.m. today in the south ball field of Pink Hill Park, while the educational displays will be in the north field.
Gormalley said the replica was reconditioned in 2009.
For more information about the event, visit www.bluespringsgov.com.