(April 16, 2021) Remembering the sacrifices made by members of the military in the Vietnam War a half-century ago will be the focal point of the “Wall That Heals” exhibit when it arrives for a stopover in Ocean Pines next week.
The Wall That Heals is a three-quarter-scale replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and is sponsored by the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
The traveling replica will arrive at the Worcester County Veterans Memorial at Route 589 and Cathell Road in Ocean Pines on Tuesday.
Helping organize the visit is Frank Bolen, who said the display is scheduled to depart from Purdue Stadium in Salisbury just after 3 p.m. on Tuesday with a squadron of motorcycles and local law enforcement leading the 50-plus foot tractor-trailer hauling the exhibit from North Carolina to Maryland.
Bolen said volunteers have been enlisted to oversee the exhibit during its visit to the Pines.
“Right now, we probably have about 150 volunteers, but we can always use more,” he said.
Bolen said an extensive number of people are required to staff the site around the clock.
“From the time it arrives to until it leaves, we have somewhere there,” he said.
After pulling into Ocean Pines on Tuesday, the exhibit will be assembled on Wednesday.
The Wall That Heals will be on view in Ocean Pines 24 hours a day from Thursday, April 22 through Sunday, April 25 at 2 p.m.
Measuring 375 feet in length and bearing the names of 58,279 U.S. Armed Forces members who died during the Vietnam War, the display is the largest of three mobile reproductions of the D.C. memorial.
Bolen said in addition to the three-quarter-size replica stopping in Ocean Pines, two other half-scale models also tour nationally.
The nonprofit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which built the D.C. memorial in 1982, oversees national tours of the replicas that honor the three-plus million Americans who served in Southeast Asia.
To provide historical context, the Wall That Heals display also features an “Education Center” that includes a timeline of the Vietnam War with further details about the D.C. memorial.
Despite the substantial number of volunteers already involved, Bolen said anyone willing to assist with setup and staffing the site could still get on board.
“We still need people to help set up and tear down,” he said. “People can call right to the day of.”
Community members are invited to line the roadside along Route 598, just south of Manklin Creek Road on Tuesday when the exhibit rolls into Ocean Pines about 4 p.m.
The Memorial Foundation will host a “welcome home” opening ceremony for the exhibit on Thursday, April 22 at 11 a.m., and a candlelight ceremony on Saturday, April 24 at 7 p.m.
Scheduled speakers during the opening ceremony are Brig. Gen. Warner Sumpter, U.S. Army (retired) and chairman of the Veterans Home Commission; Maryland State Sen. Doug Peters; Maryland State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza; and American ex-Vietnam POW Ralph Galati.
Attendees for the candlelight vigil on Saturday evening will have the opportunity to peruse the wall as names of “hometown heroes” from Worcester County, as well as from other counties on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, and Sussex County, Delaware.
Bolen said around 100 seats would be provided for the ceremonies, but that audience members should bring their own seats if possible. Coronavirus protocols such as mask mandates and social distancing will be observed.
“It’s a sight to see,” he said. “It’s been in Ocean View, Delaware and Salisbury years ago.”
Bolen, who also served in Vietnam, offered to assist any veterans hesitant to visit the exhibit due to prior unease.
“If any Vietnam Vets are nervous, just come find me and I’ll walk them to the wall or we’ll sit and talk,” he said.
Bolen can be contacted at 302-245-5216 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Worcester County Veterans Memorial Foundation or the Wall That Heals exhibit, visit www.opvets.org.
For information on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, visit www.vvmf.org or call 202-393-0090.