Many Marion countians put in countless hours of hard work to host the Wall that Heals for the first-time ever in Mississippi, and it has paid off greatly for the people of this community to experience the tribute to veterans.
The three-quarters-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington provides a somber reflection about the costs of war, as it bears the names of nearly 60,000 young men, along with a few women, who paid the full measure of sacrifice on foreign soil.
We were glad to see so many school groups scheduled to tour the wall during its stay at Bluff Street Park, which concludes at 2 p.m. Sunday. It’s important for all Americans to remember what happened in Vietnam but especially so young people.
The Vietnam War was a turning point for our nation. A boundless optimism had abounded after the victory in World War II and subsequent economic (and baby) boom, where this country grew like none other in the history of civilization. Yet the terrible struggle in Vietnam snuffed out some of that spirit, as the United States coped with being entrenched in a conflict that many didn’t see the purpose of. It marked a change in citizens’ trust of their leaders, as the credibility of the federal government took a hit from which it has never recovered because of the lies it passed on for years about the extent of American involvement in Southeast Asia and the harsh realities of warfare on the ground.
Unfortunately, much of the cynicism and rejection of authority that arose from the Vietnam era has caused a serious moral decline in our nation, as many people no longer respect the institutions of not just government but also church and marriage.
Perhaps there was some dishonesty about the morality of the 1950s, which hid serious flaws like sexism and racism that came out beginning in the 1960s. But the society on the whole seemed more stable back then with more two-parent households and less drug abuse.
No one can go back and change things to the way they were, but what we can do is get a better understanding of what happened so as to create a better future for ourselves and our country.
That’s a key part of what the Wall brings. By simply listing their names, it brings to life the tragedy of the common soldiers, thrown unwittingly into a deadly and difficult situation. Even those who survived often faced criticism upon returning home even though it usually wasn’t their choice to go to Vietnam and fight; they were following orders as best they could for their country.
We hope and trust that the Wall that Heals will live up to its name and help our county, state and nation patch those wounds and begin a recovery.
The volunteers from Marion County who did the planning and execution of the event deserve our thanks for bringing that opportunity about, as do veterans who lived to tell the story about what happened in Vietnam.