This Magic Wall HealsApr 05, 2023 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Elise Spleiss
American Legion Post 637 Riders make their presence known as they visit the Memorial Saturday. Riders in other cities the Memorial visits arrange and carry out an elaborate escort to the Wall Memorial site.
Replica is an Incredible Display of Love and Respect
CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - “If you had not come home to insults and jeers, I would not have come home to hugs and handshakes.” These words from the Education Center at the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial which came to Citrus Heights from March 29 to April 2, express perfectly the reason for the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and the traveling Wall That Heals replica.
More than 8,000 residents of Sacramento County and beyond came to Rusch Park in Citrus Heights to view and experience that magic for healing and closure, about a previously never spoken of event in history.
Also known as ‘The Magic Wall,’ this wall of shiny black granite from India consists of 140 numbered panels with 58,281 names including eight women, who died in Vietnam from 1975 to 1968.
Tim Tetz, with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), arrived along with five other staff members to direct all operations and make sure visitors had all their questions answered. Tetz gave powerful and inclusive tours to the community volunteers and later to visitors during the event.
The 53-foot semi-truck arrived in downpouring rain and wind at its destination at 11:30 a.m. on March 28. At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday dozens of members of the California State Guard and other volunteers began the monumental task of assembling the over 140 granite panels into the 375-foot-long memorial.
The semi then unfolded into the mobile Education Center which gave the complete back story from 1959 to 1968 and how and why the undeclared war began and ended. Visitors saw the Hometown Heroes panel with the rotating photos of those whose home of record was Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Carmichael, and Fair Oaks.
Visitors came to the Wall 24/7. Many veterans who have never spoken of their experiences and their pain came at night. The magic came for loved ones and those assisting them by looking up a name on the wall, helping them find the name, and showing them how to do a pencil rubbing of the name of their loved one.
Upon finding his grandfather late at night, who was a second-generation soldier, one young man and his girlfriend did the rubbing and touched his name on the black granite. Never knowing his grandfather, tears welled up in his eyes as this all became a reality for him. Looking at a photo he had, he now noticed, “I have his eyes, I have his nose.” This story of healing and closure was repeated hundreds of times over the five days and nights for veterans and relatives of lost ones.
Many items were left at the Wall including flowers, toys, photos, and letters to and from their loved ones. Some tell a whole story such as that of John Carl Guenther, Jr. from Fair Oaks. John graduated from Bella Vista in 1965 and was killed in 1969 after serving two years. His sister placed a collection of memorabilia that told her son’s story, including a plastic roadrunner as John’s favorite cartoon had been Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. If not claimed they will be stored in the Military Museum, California Military Department. Over 400,000 from the Wall in Washington D.C. are in storage.
Another poignant story told by Tetz was of a blind veteran who had come to the Wall hoping to find his friend who had died in his arms after being shot by enemy fire decades ago. He could not remember his name or the year. Tetz took his hand and after helping him run it over seven panels, the man finally said, “I know he’s here; I can feel him.: Tetz said, ‘It was as if his hand was possessed, it was electrified.” When his name was finally found the veteran said, “This is the closest I’ve felt to him on over 50 years. That is the power of the Wall.”
Another component of the Education Center is to show how things have changed in many ways since the 1960’s. The creation of the “In Memory Honor Roll invites loved ones of [those] died from war related illnesses after they came home, to nominate them to be included on the online memorial. Because of the unfair way these men and women were received when they returned home, those returned and are returning do to respect and honor for their service. And Vietnam veterans are hearing “Welcome Home” more often.”
Over 20 sponsors helped bring the Wall here including the City of Citrus Heights, Sunrise Marketplace, Stone’s Gambling Hall, Rotary of Citrus Heights. Volunteers and helpers from all over gave from a few hours to working every day to help where needed.
Lori-Michelle Willett from Petaluma said in a text, “It was an honor and a privilege to visit The Wall That Heals. The historical guide, Tim (Tetz) shared true events in such a way to respectfully pass on the personal stories of so many while engaging visitor participation, demonstrating the bonds that tie Veterans over the span of decades. The Wall That Heals is an incredible display of love and respect for those who gave their lives, brought right to you.
To find a loved one on the Wall and information on what is available to the public go to vvmf.org