The Wall That Heals opens Wednesday at fairgrounds; parade Tuesday

The Wall That Heals, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica and mobile education center, is coming to Jackson County on Wednesday.

It will be escorted by parade Tuesday on U.S. 50 from Tractor Supply Co., 2003 E. Tipton St., Seymour, to the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Brownstown.

Anyone wishing to escort the wall may meet at Tractor Supply Co. at 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot. The wall is scheduled to leave for Brownstown at 1 p.m. People are encouraged to line the parade route to support Vietnam veterans.

Assembly of the wall is set to start at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. If you or someone you know has a family member, friend or comrade whose name is on the wall, you are encouraged to come and install the panel containing that name.

After the last panel is installed at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, the wall will be open to visitors. It will then be open around the clock through 1:45 p.m. Sunday.

There will be a welcome home opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Thursday. All Vietnam veterans are invited to attend.

Thursday also is the annual Agent Orange Awareness Day. On Aug. 10, 2020, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund held its first Agent Orange awareness event. “Bring Light” illuminated the entire Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C, with orange candlelight from the wall itself to The Three Servicemen Statute, the flagpole, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial statue and the In Memory plaque.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb recently proclaimed the week of Aug. 6 to 12 as Agent Orange Awareness Week.

The first use of Agent Orange is thought to have occurred on Aug. 10, 1961, and 62 years later, Vietnam veterans who returned home hoping to leave the war behind them are fighting and dying from exposure to Agent Orange.

The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of herbicides throughout Vietnam with Agent Orange being the most widely used.

Although American servicemen and women were assured it was safe, the Department of Veterans Affairs eventually recognized Agent Orange is scientifically associated with several serious health conditions, according to a news release from David L. Hine of Greenfield. Hine, a retired senior master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force, is a board member of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Among these are Parkinson’s disease, Hodgkin’s disease, prostate cancer, respiratory cancer and many more. Thousands of Hoosiers served in Vietnam, but the number of those who have been affected by Agent Orange-related diseases and those who have died may never be known.

“A huge part of our mission is to honor those who served and survived, and many of those people and their families are still suffering over 60 years later,” said Heidi Zimmerman, vice president of programs and communications for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of the continuing impact of exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War,” she said. “We hope that by knowing this information, our Hoosier veterans may now be compelled or encouraged to seek assistance from our service officers or Veterans Affairs hospitals if suffering from adverse health conditions.

She said it is imperative to publicly inform Hoosier veterans, their families and the citizens of Indiana about the variety of diseases they may encounter due to their service in Vietnam and their exposure to Agent Orange.

“There are more than 58,000 names memorialized on the wall and many thousands more who have died since returning home many of whom were victims of Agent Orange,” Zimmerman said. “Vietnam veterans and their families are still battling its toxic effects. For them, the Vietnam War isn’t a historical event. It’s a current reality.”

Donations and volunteers are still needed. Donations may be mailed to Jackson County Wall That Heals, c/o JCBank Trust Department, P.O. Box 1001, Seymour, IN 47274. Anyone interested in volunteering may call 812-524-1617, email [email protected] or send a message via the Jackson County Wall That Heals Facebook page.

The replica wall is a three-quarter scale replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C. Once it arrives at the fairgrounds, it will be open 24 hours a day and free to the public.

The Wall That Heals honors more than 3 million Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Vietnam War and bears the names of the 58,281 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.