Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica on display at East Brandywine Community Park
EAST BRANDYWINE >> The names of the 79 Chester County residents killed in the Vietnam War were read Thursday during the opening ceremony of the “Wall That Heals” to honor those who gave their lives.
The Wall That Heals, a 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is on display through Sunday in the East Brandywine Community Park at 440 Dilworth Road.
U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, thanked East Brandywine Township officials and Hopewell United Method Church, the hosting parties, for recognizing the importance of honoring those who fought and died in Vietnam.
“We hope that thousands of people from Chester County and beyond who will come to East Brandywine Community Park this weekend are able to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many veterans and their families,” said Costello, who serves on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee. “The Wall That Heals is an exceptional commemoration of the more than 58,000 Vietnam Veterans who so courageously gave their lives for our country in the war.”
The Wall display honors the three million-plus Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and bears the names of the more than 58,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.
“I stand here, honored to salute those names on The Wall That Heals. We of that generation, recall only too well the incredible division and conflict in our country during the years of our involvement in Vietnam,” said John Neider, an Air Force veteran who served from 1966-1970. “And so this wall is aptly named, The Wall That Heals. And, we all are gathered here to honor and remember those that answered the call to serve. This time is not about healing a country. This time is about healing for each of us who served and for those who supported us.”
Neider is the pastor at Hopewell United Methodist Church in East Brandywine. He told a story of a veteran, who participated Wednesday in the motorcycle escort of the Wall from Downingtown to East Brandywine. He said that veteran approached a group of East Brandywine police officers to encourage the men and women serving the township.
“He went over to them and said some words to them about the difficulty of serving and protecting in today’s world,” Neider said about the veteran referencing the recent protests in various states against police. Tensions between the community and police departments across the country have led to protests after Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, both black men, were fatally shot by police. Some protests have turned deadly including the loss of three Baton Rouge police officers earlier this month.
“He said he understood only too well how those who chose service can be stereotyped and he wanted them to know that he supported them. And then, he did an incredible thing. He asked if he could pray for them. There they were in a small circle, several police officers and one veteran who was saying, ‘I care enough for you to pray for you.’ If you want to know if healing is happening, I say look at this veteran and his willingness to pray for those on the front line.”
Neider noted that nearly 100 motorcyclists participated in the escort who are involved in a variety of organizations, and many of these riders are veterans who served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He explained that the Wall is a tribute to veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“It was not designed to glorify what happens in war, but to pay honor to men and women who answered the call. Over all these years since our departure from Saigon, on April 30, 1975, to this very day, veterans from that war have sought and sometimes too infrequently, found affirmation, aid and respect for their service,” Neider said. “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was a giant step forward in that direction.”
The exhibit includes a mobile education center that displays photos of service members whose names are found on The Wall, letters and memorabilia left on the Wall in Washington, D. C., a map of Vietnam and a chronological overview of the conflict in Vietnam. The exhibits tell the story of the Vietnam War, The Wall and the era surrounding the conflict, and are designed to put American experiences in Vietnam in a historical and cultural context.