May 13, 2010
by: Rick Leventhal
The Wall That Heals" is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veteran's
Memorial in Washington, D.C. Like the original, it's etched with more
than 58,000 names of servicemen who lost their lives during the
Vietnam conflict. Unlike the original, it's mobile, moving from place
to place across America with the purpose of allowing the thousands of
Vets who don't have the means or the strength or courage to travel to
Washington to pay their respects and begin the healing process closer to home.
Perhaps the highest profile stop on the Wall's tour is Bethel, New
York, roughly 90 miles north of Manhattan, the site of the Woodstock
Music and Arts Festival that drew 500,000 people to Max Yasgur's
dairy farm back in August 1969.
Woodstock's theme was pointedly anti-war, so the Wall's organizers
thought it was an ideal place to reconcile the wounds of the past,
bringing hippies and veterans (some were both) together to honor the
lives lost and the sacrifices made.
Mike Cody, now 65, served with the Army's 83rd Artillery movement in
Vietnam in 1967 and says he has no hard feelings toward former
"I don't disrespect them because everyone has their own opinion,
that's what we fought for- for freedom so they have a right to do
what they want, but the men and woman who did go..." He glanced
toward the wall and choked up, "this is what it's all about."
Army Special Forces veteran Ray Carney was also near tears.
"I think the saying is that all gave some, some gave all... these
people gave all."
Dozens of Vietnam Veterans were invited to Bethel Woods to take part
in a ceremony welcoming the Wall, including Bob Blais who spent two
years in country.
"I think its great that we all come together and this wall comes to
this field because... I think it's time to come together and time to
get things right."
Duke Devlin, now a tour guide (aka "site interpreter") at Bethel
Woods, partied his way through the three day concert 41 years ago. He
says he was embarrassed at how much crying he did today, embracing
the surviving Vets like lost brothers.
"What do I say? I hug em and say 'welcome home man, I'm glad you're
name's not on that wall. I'm glad you're here, talking to me God bless you.'"