Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross will be up early next Thursday.

Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross will be up early next Thursday.

Along with hundreds – maybe thousands – of others.

That’s the first morning of the three-day stay of The Wall That Heals, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., that’s coming to Pink Hill Park.

Ross is a Vietnam veteran, having served in the United States Army Company B, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Division from 1967 to 1968.

“I was involved in many conflicts or battles or whatever it is you want to call them,” Ross said Wednesday. “The most significant one was the Tet Offensive.”

Beginning on Jan. 31, 1968, the offensive is considered the turning point of the war. Forces of the National Liberation Front  for South Vietnam (or Viet Cong) and the People’s Army of Vietnam struck military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam. Their aim was to spark a general uprising among the population that would effectively topple the Saigon government and thus end the war in a single blow.

Ross, who was drafted into the Army in 1967, was there. He saw the best and worse of men during that campaign – a best friend killed before his very eyes.

So the wall that’s coming to Blue Springs means something to Ross. He’s seen the actual monument in Washington numerous times, and each time has been emotional for him.

“I’m sure I’ll feel the same emotions when it’s here,” he said.

Recently Ross discovered that his unit was awarded the Valorous Unit Award, which is the equivalent of the Silver Star. The award was not by accident.

It started last year during Ross’ bi-annual reunion. When he discovered his unit commander had received the Silver Star, he wanted the men who served in the unit to receive the same recognition. Ross began to research what it would involve to get the unit the recognition he felt it deserved.

“I made some calls, got in contact with the right people,” he said. “I was encouraged to look at this because we knew we should be recognized for Tet.”

Within the last couple of months, Ross discovered that his efforts had paid off: His unit was indeed recognized by the U.S. Army for its efforts.

“It was a surprise,” he said.

Another surprise is that a friend of his who served with him, Orlando Gallardo, of Georgia, will visit Blue Springs next week.

“He’s coming to support me, which is an honor,” Ross said.

Gallardo devoted his life to the Army, becoming a command sergeant major. Ross left the military in 1968, but not before he achieved sergeant E5 status.

Returning to Hallmark in 1969, Ross stayed until 2005. He served as an alderman for Blue Springs and as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives.

Bringing The Wall That Heals to Blue Springs may, in the end, be one of Ross’s most cherished memories in civic service. He’s eager to see city residents and far-away visitors put their fingertips on the granite, to trace the names.

So far, there appears to be a desire for it to get here: as much as $60,000 has been raised for the event – some coming from large businesses like Hy-Vee, ATK, KFKF radio station, as well as from small donations.

“Some people donated money, and if they donate they are to receive a plaque,” Ross said. “But many of them declined that, they said they didn’t want it. That means a lot to me.”