By STAFF REPORTS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
GRUNDY, Va. – The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, will open to the public Thursday at Poplar Gap Park in Grundy. It will remain on display in Buchanan County through Sunday, May 9.
Opening ceremonies for the four-day event will be held Thursday morning at 10 a.m. Admission is free throughout the event.
Since its debut in 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund exhibit has been on display in nearly 700 U.S. communities, according to a press release from The Wall that Heals committee. In April 1999, The Wall That Heals was on tour of the Four Provinces of Ireland and was also in Canada in 2005. The 2021 national The Wall That Heals tour is sponsored by USAA. Through a partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), the trucking industry and Blue Beacon, the exhibit is able to travel across the country. The Grundy stop, hosted by Riding It Forward Inc., is the third stop in the 2021 tour.
A motorcycle escort is planned today to lead the truck carrying the exhibit to Grundy. The following day, Wednesday, will be spent setting up the exhibit for public viewing with The Wall That Heals officially opening for viewing on Thursday morning. The Wall That Heals will be open 24 hours a day for viewing during the four-day period from Thursday through Sunday. Taps will be played nightly at 7:30 p.m.
“We are so pleased to bring The Wall That Heals to Grundy,” Betty Compton, president of Riding It Forward, Inc., said in a prepared statement. “We have spent countless hours planning the event and in rounding up volunteers to help with making it possible for the event to be held in Grundy.”
Volunteers to work at the exhibit may still sign up at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/904094EAFAA28A1FD0-thewall for opportunities to assist those visiting the exhibit and its mobile Education Center.
“We hope that people in our community and in surrounding communities will take the time to visit The Wall That Heals and to honor and pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country whose names are memorialized on The Wall That Heals, as well as to those who served in that war and returned home,” Compton added. “This is an opportunity to provide a welcome home for them and we are so pleased to share and to be a part of bringing this one-of-a-kind exhibit and a piece of history to Grundy.”
A number of local service men’s names are found on The Wall and displayed with their faces as part of the mobile Education Center Wall of Faces. Service men from Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties, whose names are on The Wall, as well as those from Pike County in Kentucky and Mingo and McDowell counties in West Virginia are featured.
A motorcycle escort of the truck transporting the exhibit from Tazewell County to Poplar Gap Park in Buchanan County will depart from 2430 Fincastle Turnpike in Tazewell (the former McCann-Ramey car dealership location) at noon today, and is expected to arrive at Poplar Gap Park at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. Those wishing to join the escort are asked to meet at the Fincastle Turnpike location at 11 a.m. A ride briefing will occur at 11:45 a.m. with departure set for 12 noon.
From the Tazewell location, the escort will travel to Route 19 South/U.S. 460 west toward Claypool Hill. At Claypool Hill, the escort will travel along Route 460, turning on Business Route 460 to travel through Cedar Bluff, passing Cedar Bluff Elementary School where students will be outside to watch the escort as it goes through their community. After going through Cedar Bluff, the escort will continue to travel on Route 460 west, heading to Vansant and Lovers Gap Road, State Route 83. Students at Twin Valley Elementary School on Route 460 also plan to be out watching for the escort as it passes through the Oakwood community.
Jim Ray, chairman of The Wall That Heals-Grundy event, will welcome attendees to the opening ceremonies on Thursday. The colors will be posted by the VFW Post 7360 Color Guard. Lonnie Perkins will perform the National Anthem. The speaker will be South Grundy Supervisor Roger Rife.
An honors ceremony is planned for Saturday, May 8 at 1:30 p.m. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the local chapter of the Levisa River Daughters of the American Revolution and others will be involved in the ceremony to honor Vietnam veterans for their service. Special speaker will be Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Jimmie W. Spencer. A native of Mobile, Ala., Spencer enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1961. During his 32 years of active service, he held a variety of assignment with conventional forces, Special Forces and Ranger units. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1993 to assume the position of director of Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs with the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). He retired from AUSA in May 2013 and currently serves as consultant with the Department of Defense commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War Commission and is a senior fellow with AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare.