Athens Community Impact: The Wall That Heals


Haylee Followell | Lifestyle Writer|

Early Thursday morning on the dewy grounds of Bicentennial Park, a memorial for the Vietnam War was carefully put up. Creator of the Vietnam memorial is Athens native, Maya Lin, who coincidentally also created Bicentennial Park. The memorial is known as “The Wall That Heals” and Ohio University is one of 40 communities on its national tour. It is a 24-hour memorial set up to look like the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Wall That Heals, like the Washington D.C. memorial, also holds the names of 58,300 casualties. The memorial was at Ohio University from early Thursday morning, September 14, through noon on Sunday September 17. With more than 5,000 visitors over the course of four days, the Athens community was brought together to commemorate fallen soldiers.

In 2011, a smaller memorial was presented in Baker Center, to recognize Vietnam Veterans. This, however, was the first time the half-scale replica has visited Ohio University. Along with the replica came the museum, which sets this particular memorial apart from other traveling ones. A lot of organizations took part in this effort, such as the athletics department, ROTC and two local veterans organizations.

David Edwards, Director of Veterans and Military Student Services Veterans and Military Student Services, said that when thinking about organizing this project, “Do we want to do this? Yes.” Edwards hopes that that the memorial will be brought back in another four years, if not sooner. When asked about the planning of the memorial being tied in with Parent’s Weekend and Hero’s Day, Edwards said, “It was a happy coincidence. Everything fell into place.” Many, including myself, would be shocked to find out that these events weren’t planned together, thus making the weekend even more special.

Through laughter, tears and jokes, the four days of the memorial’s unveiling had been a whirlwind of emotions for both volunteers and patrons. Janet Russell, Records Management Specialist Veterans and Military Student Services and also volunteer for the memorial, tears up when recounting her experience over the weekend. Russell says, “[the weekend] was such a roller-coaster of emotions. It was such an honor to assist veterans and their families.”

Between the Campus Involvement Center and the Office of University Registrar, both parties were able to bring the Athens community together in a humbling and serene weekend of respect. Russell, alongside the Campus Involvement Center, helped organize the volunteers for the memorial. The volunteers worked all-hour shifts over the four-day period. These volunteers included students, faculty members and community citizens.

The Wall That Heals made a lasting impact on the Athens community. It brought many citizens together in education and healing. Citizens and departments worked together to create a memorable Parents Weekend and a memorable experience in general. The turnout could not have been any better. There were happy coincidences adding to the momentum of the weekend. Lives were touched with the presentation of this replica monument. Tears were shed but smiles also appeared over an amazing opportunity that was brought to Athens.