The Wall That Heals, a 3/4-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., is at Madonna Meadows in San Luis Obispo until Sunday at 2 p.m.
It’s vast in stature — 375 feet long and 7.5 feet tall — but its meaning is much greater than its size.
The names of just under 200 veterans from San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Monterey counties are on the wall. A lot of area veterans know of a Vietnam veteran who lost their life during the conflict.
“Jerry has relatives on the wall. Michael has people he knows that are on the wall,” Dennis Hennessy, a local Vietnam veteran said of his friends, Jerry Kaufman and Michael Knight, who are also veterans.
The Wall That Heals travels the country nearly 2/3 of the year, and San Luis Obispo is the first stop of 2023.
“Even if you lived during the Vietnam era, you saw a little microcosm of what was happening when you turned on the news,” said Tim Tetz, a staff member on-site for The Wall That Heals. “If you were in Vietnam, you saw even less.”
Tours of The Wall That Heals and an education center shed more light on a controversial war.
“With the screens and the technology we have, we can pull up on an app their pictures, and they can see it for the first time. It brings that whole story together,” Tetz said. “That's the magic that you get to see when you see the wall in Washington, D.C., but you don't have to travel there. You can have this experience here.”
“In 2009, 2010, I had a small reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition platoon in Afghanistan, and it was our local VVA, Vietnam Veterans of America, that were sending my men and I care packages. We lived extremely remotely by today's standards, and those care packages meant the world,” said Morgan Boyd, San Luis Obispo County’s Veterans Service Officer. “This is just my way to say thanks to not just the veterans, but also our community for supporting us.”
“There's 58,281 names. People we served with are on the wall, and it's an honor to remember them after all of these years,” Hennessy said. “It wasn't a pleasant time when we came home in the 60s, in the 70s.”
A kind of welcome home they never received.
“To remember these people now is an honor,” Hennessey said.
The Wall That Heals staff says that numbers for opening day were above average and consistent. If weather cooperates, they expect numbers to jump Friday night through the weekend.