Moving Wall to offer a means of healing

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Veteran Cheri Leachman spoke about her experience with the Moving Wall committee during McGregor’s Memorial Day program at Pleasant Grove Cemetery May 30. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Cheri Leachman, a Vietnam War-era veteran and member of the McGregor American Legion Post 267, was the speaker at this year’s Memorial Day program at McGregor’s Pleasant Grove Cemetery.

Over the past few months, said Leachman, she’s been part of the committee that’s worked to bring the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to the Clayton County Fairgrounds in National June 30 through July 5.

When the idea of bringing the Moving Wall to Clayton County was first posed, Leachman admitted she was skeptical.

“I’ve visited the real wall, and I didn’t see how the feelings and emotions I felt could or should be replicated,” she said.

She also worried how others would respond, considering the divisiveness of the Vietnam War.

“I am a Vietnam-era veteran, and I say it proudly,” she stated, “but it causes a wide array of responses. It takes people back to a time when the nation was divided, when no one could paint a clear picture of what, where and why we were fighting.”

However, Leachman said she quickly saw the Moving Wall as a means of healing for veterans with scars both seen and unseen and for families and friends who lost loved ones. It’s also a way for the general public to learn about the war, while also showing respect to those who served and gave their lives, many of whom were not shown respect when they came home, she said.

“No one needs a reminder of the horrors of war, but everyone deserves to honor and respect those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. 

Leachman said 2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam. Of those, 58,306 were casualties, including 869 from Iowa and nine from Clayton County. Their average age, she noted, was 19.

“There are 58,306 names on the memorial. That means 58,306 empty chairs at holiday meals, suppers, weddings and funerals,” she said. “They each represent a broken family. The hole created never goes away. It cannot and will not be filled.”

Leachman said she hopes her fellow veterans will find peace and solace in the Moving Wall.

“If one individual is able to find closure, we have fulfilled our mission. I hope they leave with whatever they hoped to find,” she explained. “It’s been humbling and gratifying to bring [the Moving Wall] to Clayton County.”

Leachman said the opening ceremony for the Moving Wall will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 30. A special ceremony for those listed on the wall will be held Saturday, July 2, at 2 p.m. The closing ceremony will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 4, although people may view it until 8 a.m. on July 5. The Moving Wall will be open to the public and guarded 24 hours per day during its stay in Clayton County.

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