By Claire Aiello
June 5, 2018
This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Initiatives magazine.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville/Madison County community takes great pride in honoring our military. Later this month, we will celebrate Armed Forces Week with several events between June 24-30, including a proclamation signing, special concerts, fireworks and a luncheon. These events are designed to thank our veterans for the great service and sacrifice they have made for our freedom. Please review the calendar and make plans to join our community and say thank you.
There are also more things to look ahead to in November around Veterans Day.
The Wall That Heals
From November 1-4, Huntsville will host The Wall That Heals at John Hunt Park Fairgrounds. It is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and travels to different cities across the U.S. It is free to the public and honors the more than three million Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Vietnam War, displaying the names of more than 58,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.
The Wall That Heals is 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet at its tallest point. It is a three-quarter scale replica, with 144 individual panels made of Avonite, a synthetic granite. They are illuminated with modern LED lighting to provide better readability day and night. The Wall will be open 24 hours a day.
“We’re going to be open around the clock, because some veterans do not want to go when other people are going to be there,” said David Carney. “They want to go at three o’clock in the morning, and that’s why we’re going to be there.”
Carney is helping plan The Wall’s visit. A veteran himself, he is well-known in Huntsville for leading the charge on many military support activities through the years, including troop deployments and welcome home ceremonies.
“We’ve got to show people that we care. Everyone should be at the airport to say they did a good job, welcome back,” said Carney. “They’re due that handshake. That’s an outright obligation, and the families served every bit as much. It’s just what you’re supposed to do.”
The Wall also includes a mobile Education Center. Once the truck is parked, the trailer opens with exhibits built into its sides, providing a unique experience for visitors to gain a better understanding of the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the collection of items left at The Wall.
Carney says local veterans will help with educational sessions and tours, and talk with student groups who visit.
“We’re all right there together and we have a strong military background, so we can organize very quickly and very easily to make stuff like this happen and to give it the reverence and the sincerity that it should have,” said Carney.
While The Wall is in Huntsville, the digital displays on the truck will include information customized about Huntsville veterans. Fifty-six people from Madison County died in Vietnam. Two were declared missing in action.
Additional funding is needed to bring The Wall That Heals to Huntsville. If you or your company would like to contribute, please visit http://twth-hsv.com/
The Wall of Faces
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has also established The Wall of Faces, an accompanying website that includes pictures of those who died in Vietnam. It allows family and friends to share memories, post more photos and connect with each other. Many names on the wall do not have photos, but there is an effort to collect photos of each veteran. Of those missing photos, 255 are from Alabama, 129 are from north Alabama and 22 are from within 50 miles of Huntsville.
Local volunteers are working to share information around north Alabama about the veterans whose photos are missing. Please visit http://twth-hsv.com/the-wall-of-faces/ for the list of local names. You can also upload pictures if you know the person. These nine veterans are from Madison & Limestone Counties:
Addition coming for Veterans Memorial
The Huntsville/Madison County Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 2011. Located at 200 Monroe Street, it honors and pays tribute to all veterans and remembers their sacrifice.
It recognizes by name the Madison County veterans who were killed in action during all wars from WWI to present, and recognizes Madison County veterans awarded the Medal of Honor.
A new statue is being created for the Memorial. Dan Burch of Gurley is creating the piece, which shows a Combat Medic helping an injured Marine.
The models for the picture are Lance Corporal Kendall Bane and EMT John Perry II (deceased). Bane was injured in 2012 in Afghanistan. The new statue is scheduled to be dedicated this Veterans Day.