In 1982, the United States dedicated a memorial to the men and women who served in Vietnam and pays homage to the service members who died – or went missing in action – during the war in South East Asia. Visits to the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., have brought comfort and closure to millions of Americans. But for many veterans and their families, making the trip to the nation's capital to view it in person is not within their means.
Due to the efforts of Missouri farmer and Vietnam veteran Jim Eddleman, more people than ever will be experiencing the beauty, solemnity and healing of the memorial in the future at Missouri's National Veterans Memorial, featuring a full-sized sister wall in Perryville.
During the Tet Offensive in 1968, Eddleman pledged to himself that – should he survive – he would one day do something to honor his comrades. To do so, he donated 46 acres of land that had been in his family for three generations, and then made a significant contribution to build the memorial itself, as his way of providing that lasting tribute. The location in the middle of America makes it more accessible to millions more Americans.
There are several smaller renditions of the Vietnam Wall around the country, as well as a 3/5-size traveling memorial wall that is met with respect and deep emotion wherever it appears. Eddleman and the people of the Perry County area wanted this version to be a full-sized exact replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, character-by-character, and received the blessing of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C., to make the dream a reality.
The sister wall is constructed of the same black granite as the original, and every name is duplicated down to the smallest detail, and is surrounded by a pastoral landscape and scenic views. In addition to the Wall, a museum will honor all veterans from every conflict and those who served during peacetime. The welcome center will be open weekdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. but the Wall and other outdoor areas are accessible day and night, year-round. Admission and parking are free; if you have the means, a $10 per person donation is requested.
Missouri's National Veterans Memorial will serve as a lasting reminder of the sacrifices veterans and their families have made in service to our nation, just as the original Wall has done for more than three decades, allowing visitors a chance to salute, learn, grieve and heal – right here in the heart of the heartland.
Written by Barb Brueggeman