Weather Delays Vietnam Wall Opening In Cedar Falls
UPDATE: The threat of severe thunderstorms and that they could spawn tornadoes has postponed the planned opening of The Wall That Heals in Cedar Falls until 1 p.m. Thursday (May 18, 2017). The ceremony was originally scheduled for 7 o'clock tonight.
The semi carrying the portable national monument arrived at the Cedar Falls AMVETS Post 49 building around 11:30 a.m. today, escorted by nearly 40 veterans on motorcycles. Volunteers were in place to erect the mobile exhibit after its arrival, but officials in charge of the attraction decided to move the set-up time to 6:30 a.m. on Thursday to avoid potential problems with the weather.
A tornado watch is posted for a large portion of Iowa, including Black Hawk County, until 7 p.m. Wednesday.
ORIGINAL STORY - Posted On Tuesday, May 16, 2017:
A traveling 250-foot replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is coming to Cedar Falls this week.
The Wall That Heals will be on display outside the AMVETS Post 49 building, 1934 Irving St., from Wednesday night through late Sunday afternoon (May 17-21, 2017).
The mobile exhibit travels to communities across the country, allowing those who can't make it to the nation's capital to see the real thing. As Outreach Director for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Tim Tetz (pronounced Tates) oversees The Wall That Heals program.
"It is exactly half as tall and half as long as the memorial we have in Washington, D.C.," he said, "and it lists the 58,315 casualties of the Vietnam War."
A semi carrying the exhibit is traveling to the Cedar Valley from Stockton, Mo., where The Wall That Heals was set up last weekend. Dozens of freedom riders are expected to meet the semi at an Interstate 35 truck stop in Ellsworth Wednesday morning and escort the vehicle with their motorcycles on the final 60-mile leg of the trip to Cedar Falls.
An opening ceremony is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. From that point forward, The Wall That Heals will be open to the public free-of-charge, around-the-clock through the closing ceremony at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Other events are also planned, including a welcome home ceremony to honor local Vietnam Veterans at 7 p.m. on Friday (For Event Schedule: CLICK HERE).
In addition to the replica wall, the portable monument includes a second element. The semi's 53-foot trailer doubles as a mobile education center that tells the story of the controversial military conflict.
"When we open up the sides of that, we're able to basically have a traveling exhibit of a museum that we'll eventually build here in Washington, D.C.," Tetz explained in a telephone interview. "It really expands the visitor's understanding and perspective of the memorial and the war."
According to Tetz, there are three display panels inside the trailer that feature various items left by family members or friends to honor soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
"Today, the National Park Service has a collection of some 400,000 items that have been left behind at the wall and we're lucky enough to bring some of those items on the road with us," he said. "So, we're able to show things like a riding helmet, someone's boots, plenty of POW-MIA bracelets, and letters that are going to tear at your heart."
Three six-foot television monitors recently installed inside the education center show digital images of individual soldiers who are memorialized on The Wall. Tetz said one of those monitors will display the photographs and names of Cedar Falls-area soldiers who are among those featured on the memorial.
Officials with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund hope to someday have a photograph of all 58,315 soldiers whose names are engraved on The Wall. According to Tetz, volunteers completed the “faces project” for Iowa last week when they verified that a previous picture had been misidentified and replaced it with the correct one.
"We now have all the photographs from Iowa, which makes it one of 22 states that we have photographs completed for," Tetz said. "We're super excited about that."
Since its dedication in 1996, The Wall That Heals has visited more than 400 cities across the country. Cedar Falls is the 13th stop on this year's 41-city tour and the only Iowa location scheduled in 2017.
More information about The Wall That Heals and the schedule for its stay in Cedar Falls, can be found on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website.