Vietnam Vet Unveils New Project to Honor the Fallen
(March 31, 2009)
Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Fund, sits next to actor Tom Selleck at an unveiling ceremony for
the group's next project, an education center on the National Mall.
Selleck has signed on as the project spokesman, March 26, 2009.
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 – Thirty years ago, an infantry
corporal named Jan Scruggs boldly set out to build a national memorial. Since
then, as a result of his determination, millions of people have found comfort
and closure at the Vietnam Memorial known as The Wall.
Today, Scruggs unveiled a glimpse of his next project -- The Education Center at
the Wall. He displayed a replica of the new exhibit to be housed in an
underground visitor and education center on the National Mall here near the
Lincoln and Vietnam memorials.
The replica will serve as a traveling preview of the future underground exhibit.
A 45-foot tractor trailer that carries The Wall That Heals," a half-sized
replica of the Vietnam Memorial has been refurbished by Featherlite Trailers.
The trailer's museum exhibit has been redesigned to mimic the displays planned for the actual underground
education center, Scruggs said.
Actor Tom Selleck, known for his work in the TV show
"Magnum, P.I." during the 1980s, is the project's new
spokesman. He served in the California National Guard during
the Vietnam era. His friend Ron Montapert went to Vietnam
but did not come home.|
"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.
He said the Vietnam War taught the American people to
separate how they feel about the troops from how they feel
about the war
"That black granite wall taught us a lesson as well," he
added, "that we must never forget those who fell." Selleck
said the new center "will take us from thinking about the
58,000 as a group to thinking of them as individuals."
"I would like to say to all those who served and sacrificed
in Vietnam and in all of America's wars, thank you for your
service and welcome home," he concluded.
Scruggs noted that both The Wall and the replica honor the
courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of the
Actor Tom Selleck, Ernie Quintana, acting deputy director for the National Park
Service, and Lisa Quiroz, senior vice president of corporate responsibility for
Time Warner, react to one of the speakers at a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
ceremony on the National Mall, March 26, 2009.
answered the call during
America's longest war. He said the memorial brought long overdue
recognition and healing for the participants and family members and
became a symbol of reconciliation and healing.
But, he noted, The Wall That Heals has become the memorial
that educates people across the country. The traveling wall
and new exhibit, which includes teddy bears, photographs,
letters, baseballs, a motorcycle, combat boots, flags, and
medals, soon will be on tour in towns and cities throughout
Exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum said some of the letters in
the exhibit were written at the wall "out of sheer impulse,"
while "others have been carefully crafted and left in a very
Appelbaum read one letter as an example.
"'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, it 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.'"
The objects left at The Wall "illustrate loss and grieving,
Appelbaum said, "but they also celebrate a bond of love and
friendship and even happy memories."
"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."
Visitors view an exhibit of Vietnam War mementos housed in a
recently refurbished,14-wheel tractor trailer on the National Mall,
March 26, 2009. The exhibit is a replica of what the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial Fund organization plans to house in a new
education center to be build near the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials
in Washington, D.C.
As founder and president of the nonprofit Vietnam Veterans
Memorial Fund, Scruggs raised nearly $9 million to build The
Wall through private contributions from corporations,
foundations, unions, veterans and citizens groups, and more
than 275,000 individual Americans.
Scruggs now intends to raise up to $100 million to build the
underground museum to exhibit the photographs of the men and
women whose names are etched on the black granite wall. He
also plans to display some of the 100,000 mementos visitors
have left at The Wall.
"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.
So far, the
memorial fund has raised $18 million for the project,
including $10 million from Time Warner. Today, Rolling
Thunder donated $25,000 and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of
America donated $5,000. Representatives of the three
organizations attended the ceremony.
Quiroz said that when Scruggs introduced
Time Warner to the concept of the education center, the
corporate officials realized that the letters, photos and
teddy bears "represented years of experiences that had been
missed by the people that were memorialized on the wall."
Lisa Quiroz, senior vice president of corporate
responsibility for Time Warner, said the first time she
visited the Vietnam Memorial she was moved by the fact that
the memorial recognized "the feats of ordinary citizens --
our brothers, our fathers, our sisters, your children."
"At the end of the day, our democracy is what it is because
we have young people that sacrifice for this country and our
democratic ideals," she said.
Of all the requests for support, she
said, Time Warner executives thought the education center
provided a unique opportunity "to give every visitor who
came away from The Wall a profound sense of gratitude, and a
deeper understanding of the meaning of patriotism."
Todd Bowers, director of government affairs for the Iraq and
Afghanistan Veterans of America, thanked the Vietnam
veterans for their support of today's troops.
"We're the new, young generation of veterans," Bowers said,
"and if it wasn't for all the support that we've received
from veterans of previous conflicts, we would be having a
lot harder time right now. I thank everyone from the
previous conflicts for looking out for us and making sure
that those guys over there are going to be taken care of
before, during, and most important, after war."
Artie Muller, Vietnam veteran and chairman of Rolling
Thunder, said, "Welcome home to all the veterans who are
here. And to those who gave their lives, we'll never forget
"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, addressing 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."
Ann Sherman Wolcott, the mother of Rex
Sherman, a fallen Vietnam Army veteran, feels the new
exhibit will help keep the spirits of the fallen alive.
"My son was 18 years old when he died in 1969. He was an airborne
ranger and I'm veryproud of him," she
Vietnam veteran Artie Muller, chairman of Rolling Thunder, talks
with supporters at an unveiling ceremony for a new Vietnam Veterans
Memorial Fund project, March 26, 2009.
said. "To see this let's
me know that people have not forgotten his sacrifice."
For more information on The Wall That Heals and the
Education Center at the Wall, go to the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Web site. |
photos by Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
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