USI to host Vietnam War Memorial replica

Riley Guerzini, Editor-in-Chief

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (WMF) will bring their three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and an accompanying Education Center to the university in September of 2020, according to a press release from the university.

The replica, titled “The Wall That Heals” will be displayed on the Quad from Sept. 10 through Sept. 13 and will be open to the public for 24 hours each day.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for them to bring it here,” Student Veterans Association President Alfonso Aldana Jr. said. “Sometimes families, fellow soldiers, marines, they don’t have an opportunity to visit the wall to see their fellow comrades who didn’t make it home, so bringing it here gives them that great opportunity to see their names on there.”

The WMF selected USI as one of 35 sites to host “The Wall That Heals” in 2020. The exhibit honors more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and bears the name of 58,276 men and women who died in Vietnam.

The traveling exhibit made its debut in 1996 and has been displayed in nearly 600 U.S. communities. 

Rolling Thunder Indiana Chapter 6, a Veterans support group in Evansville, financed the movement of the display to campus and will be the ones setting up the display on the Quad.

Aldana Jr. said he expects 20,000 to 25,000 people to attend over the course of the three-day stay on campus.

This is the first time in history the replica will be displayed on a college campus.

“It says a lot not just for the students but the veterans in the community,” he said. “I think this isn’t just about students anymore, this is about the community as a whole.”

“The Wall That Heals” is 375 feet in length and stands at 7.5 feet high at its tallest point according to the U.S. National Parks Service.

The replica is made a synthetic granite called of Avonite and contains 144 individual panels supported by an aluminum frame. LED lighting from the top of the wall allows it to be read at night.

The wall will arrive and be set up on Sept. 9.

Joel Matherly, assistant director of the Veteran, Military and Family Resource Center, said the planning and setup of the wall will take every bit of the 11 months they have.

“What an amazing venue to have it here on campus,” he said. “It’s probably the most solemn place you could have it right here in the center of campus, where all the students and the community have access to it.”

There are 13 people on the event planning committee. They will work with committees for Rolling Thunder Indiana to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“It’s going to be a heck of an operation,” Matherly said.