29 Mar 2018: On the country’s first annual National Vietnam War Veterans Day, a special event event began that means the world to some of the Central Coast’s bravest men.
For the first time in 21 years, The Wall That Heals is open to the public in San Luis Obispo. It’s a smaller-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.
People can come to the temporary installation at Madonna Meadows any time of day, as it’s open 24 hours through Sunday at 2 p.m.
A total of 58,318 names of the heroes who died in the Vietnam War are etched on the wall.
“It’s gut wrenching,” said Ronnie Imel. “We’ve had hundreds of thousands of veterans die from Agent Orange and combat wounds and it’s a lot bigger than it even appears to be.”
Imel grew up on the Central Coast. He’s also a Vietnam veteran.
“I found names of people that were in my unit. It’s a very chilling effect to go through it and look and find those names,” Imel continued.
“It was a bit emotional a couple of times, realizing when I saw the wall yesterday,” said Rusty Hobbs, a Vietnam veteran seeing the wall in a place he calls home. “It’s moving.”
Hobbs lived in Morro Bay for several years before being drafted.
“It makes me feel good that people are coming to check it out because when I first got back, I went to school right away. I went right back to school as soon as I got home and we had people treating us not well,” Hobbs recalled.
He says he and his fellow veterans did not get a “welcome home.” They got the opposite.
Following an opening ceremony on Thursday evening, flowers and other special items were placed near the wall. Even with the sun down, the names shine.
A solemn feeling came over family members and others paying tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“It’s just amazing that people are coming around and saying, ‘Thank you’ and looking at their- finding their loved ones. I know that’s helping them, too. It is indeed the wall that heals,” Hobbs concluded.
There’s also an education center on site with some of the more than 400,000 items that have been left at the wall in Washington, DC.
To visit news article: Veterans, loved ones visit The Wall That Heals in San Luis Obispo
To View our Photos from event please visit: The Wall That Heals