New Project To Honor The Fallen Announced

March 28, 2009

Thirty years ago, there wasn’t a memorial to honor those who gave their lives in Vietnam. There was however a man with a mission. That man, Cpl Jan Scruggs, set out on a mission to build a national memorial. His determination to do so, ultimately led to a memorial that has been a place of comfort and closure for millions of people, the Vietnam Memorial.


On Thursday, Jan Scruggs announced his next project. A project to honor the fallen in a very unique way, the Education Center at the Wall. Scruggs unveiled a replica of the new exhibit, that will eventually be housed in the underground visitor’s center at the National Mall in Washington DC. The replica that was unveiled, will be traveling all over the country, to give Americans a preview of the future exhibit. The spokesperson for the project, on hand at the unveiling, is Actor Tom Selleck. Selleck is well known for his character in Magnum PI, but a lesser known fact about his=m, is that he served in the California National Guard during the Vietnam Era. He lost a good friend in Vietnam.

“Across the street from here is a wall with more than 58,000 names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country during the Vietnam War,” Selleck told the 100 or so people attending the ceremony.1

Scruggs spoke to the crowd as well, noting that The Wall and the replica are meant to honor the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country, of the people who answered the call during the Vietnam War, America’s longest war. He spoke of how the Vietnam Memorial is a place that has brought to many, recognition and symbolizes a place for healing. According to Scruggs, the Wall, the wall that heals has also taught the American public, and thus has also become a place of education. The new exhibit will travel along with the traveling Wall. That exhibit will include teddy bears, photographs, letters, baseballs and many other memories that have been left at the Wall over the years. It will soon be on tour across the country. According to the designer of the exhibit, Ralph Appelbaum, some of the letters that are included, were written at the wall, often out of sheer impulse, while others were carefully written and then left precisely at the Wall. He provided an example of one of those letters.

“Dear Dad, I’m sorry it took so long but when you went away I was 8 years old and I couldn’t understand why you never came back to us. I’m now 35 and I can understand now as I have fought in two wars myself. It’s not much fun, is it? You might like to know that you have three grandchildren, two girls and a boy and they all know about you. It meant a lot to me to see your name on The Wall with all the others. Your loving son, Paul.”2

That letter and others like it have been left at The Wall, since it’s unveiling. While the letters and other items left at The Wall, show the depth of loss and grief, they show another thing that we don’t often think about. It also celebrates the human bonds of love, friendship and memories. So often those items, represent comfort and closure for those left behind.

“They represent a treasure trove of conversations about the deaths of sons and the births of granddaughters,” he said. “That’s what this center is dedicated to and that’s what you’ll see as you stroll around the portable wall as it begins its journey around the country.” 3

Jan Scruggs is the founder, as well as the President of the nonprofit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. For the construction of The Wall, Scruggs and his foundation raised almost $9 million. To build the underground museum and the exhibits , one of which will be photographs of the men and women whose names are seen etched into the gleaming black granite of The Wall. Another part of the exhibit will be the display of over 100,000 mementos that have been left at The Wall by visitors.

“Remember that what we’re doing here is remembering values,” Scruggs said. “The values of our active-duty servicemembers today, the values of loyalty, respect, duty, integrity, courage and service. These were shown by the fellows and women who served in Vietnam, by the people who are serving today, and by the people at a place called Lexington Green in 1775 who stood up against the British to get the American people our freedom,” he said.

Prior to the unveiling of the new replica, the foundation had raised around $18 million, with $10 million being donated by Time Warner. On Thursday, Rolling Thunder donated $25,000, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America donated $5000. Representatives from each organization were in attendance at the ceremony on Thursday.

Lisa Quiroz of Time Warner presented the idea to her company. She said that when she introduced the idea to Time Warner executives, they recognized that the letters, photos and other items left at The Wall, were representative of years of experiences that had been missed by the people who are memorialized on The Wall. They felt that the education center represented the opportunity to give everyone who visited The Wall and the visitors center, ‘a profound sense of gratitude and a deeper understanding of the meaning of patriotism.’4 The chairman of Rolling Thunder and Vietnam veteran, Artie Muller spoke to the crowd as well.

“Welcome home to all the veterans who are here. And to those who gave their lives, we’ll never forget them. This is a different war, a lot of women are in this war; and it’s altogether different than during the Vietnam days,” Muller said, as he addressed the Troops now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We know you guys and gals are doing a great job and we’re real proud of you. Us Vietnam veterans never want to let what happened to us, happen to you.”5

Also present at the ceremony, were some loved ones of the fallen whos names are etched onto The Wall. One mother, Ann Sherman Wolcott, is the mother of Rex Sherman, a fallen Vietnam Army veteran. Mrs. Wolcott feels that the exhibit will help to keep alive the spirits of the fallen.

“My son was 18 years old when he died in 1969. He was an airborne ranger and I’m very proud of him,” she said. “To see this lets me know that people have not forgotten his sacrifice.”6

Mrs. Wolcott, we will NEVER forget what your son and countless others gave their lives for. We will never forget their sacrifice and the ideals and values that they died fighting for. We as Americans owe them the honor that they will receive with this new project. If you would like to find out more about The Wall and the Education Center at The Wall, please visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Website, by following the link below. If you know a Veteran of the Vietnam War, take a moment to shake his or her hand and tell them “Thank You.”

Vietnam Vieterans Memorial Fund Website

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