April 16, 2024

Vietnam veteran Donald J. Miller has all the time longed to go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, he mentioned tears got here to his eyes when collaborating in welcoming a three-quarter-size reproduction of the memorial referred to as The Wall That Heals to be arrange till Sunday in Wells Park in El Cajon.

El Cajon Councilwoman Michelle Metschel instructed members: “That is particularly fantastic as a result of there are such a lot of people who are usually not capable of journey to Washington, D.C., to go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Wall That Heals supplies the chance for this shifting expertise.”

Miller, 75, served three excursions of obligation in Vietnam from 1968-1973 as a member of the one hundred and first Airborne.

“This implies all the things to me,” he mentioned of the wall.

Greater than 75 motorcyclists and drivers escorted the truck carrying the reproduction. Folks stood by the perimeters of the roads and waved and cheered.

The wall will probably be constructed starting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at 1153 E. Madison Ave. and a opening ceremony is deliberate for 10 a.m. Thursday.

The free cell exhibit will probably be open across the clock till 2 p.m. Sunday. About 200 volunteers will help.

“It means recognition of the entire Vietnam vets that served in Vietnam,” Miller mentioned. “We should be acknowledged for what we did. I got here again and I used to be a pariah.”

Miller spoke about what number of People took their opposition to the battle out on returning troopers, seeing them because the “unhealthy” guys.

Nevertheless, Miller believes that previously 10 years, Vietnam Conflict veterans have begun to be acknowledged for his or her sacrifice.

“The World Conflict II (veterans) had been all heroes after they got here again,” he mentioned. “That they had a parade. No parade for Vietnam, no heroes, nothing.”

That sentiment was shared by Alex Bedoya Jr., who introduced his 74-year-old Vietnam veteran father on the procession and to the welcoming ceremony.

“We got here to be a part of historical past,” mentioned the 43-year-old son. “We talked about it after I was rising up, and he deserves to see it.”

“He obtained the welcome that he deserves,” Bedoya mentioned of his father who served on the USS Tripoli.

Volunteer Grace Herrera mentioned after the escort: “As we had been driving in, you see lots of grumpy faces of drivers who’re caught in site visitors, however after they see us parade by and see the truck, you see smiles on their faces and so they begin waving.

“It’s been fairly an emotional day,” she defined. 

Members had been capable of see objects that household and associates have left on the Washington memorial. They had been encased in glass on the perimeters of the 53-foot truck.

Additionally feeling the temper was Gilbert Peck, 61, of Rancho Penasquitos.

“Having it right here is superb,” Peck mentioned. “It’s a army city. It’s an honor to have it right here.”

Peck mentioned he grew to become emotional when he met Vietnam Conflict veterans previous to the procession, considering of the greater than 58,000 army members who died within the battle. He additionally considered those that returned “not essentially complete.”

“They by no means obtained this sort of reception and that’s why it’s so vital,” he mentioned, “and I get chocked up now as a result of it’s vital that they get acknowledged.”

El Cajon Councilman Phil Ortiz instructed the gang: “We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude that we might by no means repay, particularly our Vietnam veterans.”

The memorial reproduction captures the army spirit, Ortiz mentioned.

“You’re valued, you might be honored, and you might be particular and you aren’t forgotten,” he mentioned. 

El Cajon is the fourth of 33 cities the place the cell exhibit will probably be proven.