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Vietnam Vets Visit the Wall that Heals in Harrisburg
HARRISBURG (May 11, 2018) – Vietnam veterans from Chester County and the surrounding area joined state Senator Andy Dinniman at the Wall that Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, when it came to grounds of the state Capitol in Harrisburg this week.
Dinniman hosted a group of veterans from Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center for a visit to the wall and a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the state Capitol. The group included nearly 40 veterans who served in Vietnam and the Vietnam-era, as well as more recent wars and conflicts.
Among them was Jim Donoghue, currently of Philadelphia, who served in Vietnam as an Air Force intelligence officer. Donoghue recounted how surveillance planes would land on an airstrip, dropping off film that would be taken to one trailer for development, then another trailer where he and his team would analyze aerial photos of potential targets.
“It took us about 45 minutes from the time the plane landed. And we thought that was fast,” he said, reflecting on the way technology has advanced in the age of drone warfare.
Also with the group was Raelene Walton, formerly of Phoenixville, who came to locate the name of her twin brother, Richard.
Walton said that while the pain of losing a twin was very hard and rippled through her entire family, it was important for her to make the trip and visit the wall.
“It’s about waking up the American people. It happened. It was terrible,” she said. “And when the boys came home – the ones who came home – they weren’t treated like they should have been. They were welcomed, but not as they should have been.”
While a volunteer assisted Walton in getting a rubbing of her brother’s name, she recounted how she had wanted to serve in an Army hospital overseas, but her mother forbade it after her brother was killed.
Later, she ended up working with wounded Vietnam veterans in rehabilitation and recovery at Valley Forge Army Hospital, currently the site of the University of Valley Forge.
“I saw the ‘after,’” she said, shaking her head. “And that was enough.”
Dinniman, who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said the day offered a unique opportunity to meet with veterans, reflect on the Vietnam era and continue to try to heal the deep wounds of war.
“We know that our Vietnam veterans did not get the honor, respect, recognition, and, in some cases, the support services they deserved and needed upon returning home,” he said. “The Wall is an opportunity to reflect on the fallen, but it also represents the obligation and duty of every American to learn the history, know what happened, and do what we can to right the wrongs of the past when it comes to the treatment of Vietnam vets and of all of our veterans. They represent our nation’s greatest heroes.”
Dinniman also thanked the doctors, nurses, staff, and volunteers at the Coatesville Veteran Affairs Medical Center for their ongoing work, and recognized Director of Community and Congressional Affairs Kirk Fernitz for his pivotal role in organizing the trip.
“I appreciate Senator Dinniman extending the invitation to the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center to have veterans come here not only to see and tour the state Capitol but also to give them the opportunity to take some time at the wall,” Fernitz said. “On behalf of the VA, thank you. It was a very meaningful, memorable day, and something they will remember for quite a while.”
The Wall visits the grounds of the Capitol until Wednesday, May 9 at 2 p.m. The Pennsylvania General Assembly is a proud sponsor of the Wall that Heals to honor those who served.
In addition to the replica of the Wall, the exhibition features a mobile Education Center that tells the story of the Vietnam War, the Wall, and the era surrounding the conflict, and are designed to put American experiences in Vietnam in a historical and cultural context.
The Wall that Heals is a project of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
For more info on the Wall that Heals and its upcoming locations, visit http://www.vvmf.org/twth.