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Op-ed | The Wall That Heals: A tribute to healing, unity and reflection

Sep. 21, 2023 By James Hendon, Commissioner, Department of Veterans’ Services

Earlier this year, March 29, 2023, marked the 50th anniversary of the end of U.S. combat operations in Vietnam. A commemorative act that provided all Americans with an opportunity to reflect on the lasting impact of this pivotal moment in history.

For many Vietnam veterans, the scars and memories of that time remain ever-present. However, littered amidst these memories, another opportunity presents itself as a beacon of healing and remembrance in the form of “The Wall That Heals.” The Wall That Heals will be in Flushing Meadows Corona Park from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1.

This traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial serves as a powerful symbol of tribute and reconciliation for those who answered the call, choosing to don the uniform in a time of war and defend this nation. For those Veterans who may not have had the opportunity to visit the original memorial in Washington, D.C., having The Wall That Heals in their own city provides an invaluable chance to heal and find solace. It offers a sacred space where they can honor their fallen comrades, reconnect with their own experiences and share their stories with others who can truly understand.

However, the impact of The Wall That Heals extends far beyond the Veteran community. This exhibit holds immense importance to all members of the body public, as it provides a glimpse into one of the more challenging conflicts in our nation’s history—from the Sailor, Soldier, Marine and Airman to the supporter to the anti-war activist—the impact of the Vietnam War remains key to unraveling the complex relationships between the military and the community at-large.

It reminds us of the sacrifices made by our brave Service Members and deepens our understanding of the human cost of war. It is a chance for us, as a society, to express our gratitude and to ensure that the memories of those who fought and those who lost their lives are forever etched into our collective consciousness. In this way, we can move forward, clear-eyed, about what we have asked of our brothers and sisters, who take up arms under the banner of “Old Glory.”

New Yorkers should seize the opportunity to visit The Wall That Heals during its short stay in our city. As a diverse and resilient community, we have always embraced the values of compassion, unity and respect for our Veterans. This exhibition allows us to demonstrate those values by paying our respects, engaging in conversations with Veterans and learning from their experiences. It provides a unique chance for personal growth and understanding, as we seek to bridge the divide between generations and honor those who served, as well as their loved ones.

The Wall That Heals reminds us that healing is a journey – a sacred quest that differs based on the individual and their experiences and that collective healing requires collective engagement. By visiting the memorial, we become active participants in the healing process, supporting our Veterans and forging connections that transcend time and place. Let us seize this opportunity to express our gratitude, learn from the past and create a stronger, more empathetic future.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Honor to the Soldier and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause.” Let us honor our Vietnam Veterans by visiting The Wall That Heals and may its presence in our city be a testament to the enduring power of remembrance, healing and unity. Together, as we stand before The Wall That Heals, we can ensure that the sacrifices made by our Vietnam Veterans are never forgotten and their legacy of courage and resilience lives on in our hearts.

Learn more about The Wall That Heals’ visit to New York City at nyc.gov/vetwall.

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