Exhibit educates, honors, heals


Gabby Valentine

John Dermott etches the name of a fallen soldier with the help of a family member. Dermott visited the memorial to pay respects to all of the veterans who risked their lives so we could live ours.

Emma Lewis, Managing Editor

Hundreds of North Carolinians were able to experience an emotional moment in Wake Forest in mid October when The Wall That Heals made an appearance at Joyner Park.

Veterans along with students visited the Vietnam Wall replica and were captivated by the meaning behind the structure. The JROTC program was among these groups of students, and junior Emily Reck learned more about the impact of the devastating war.

“Seeing the wall made me realize that there were so many lives that were taken during this war. Seeing and hearing about the items that families and friends would leave there were so saddening,” Reck said.
Another junior in JROTC, Lindsay Peabody, gained further understanding about the military, in addition to some of the history behind the wall.

“At the wall I learned that the military creates life-long friendships and even relationships with people you don’t know. I saw people comforting each other because they both had family in the military. I also learned that the real Wall That Heals is in Washington, D.C. and was designed by Maya Lin,” Peabody said.

According to Sue Hartford, a Purple Heart volunteer, Maya Lin was a Yale architect student whose design for the structure was selected through a contest. Her design contains names of the fallen carved into the surface, including eight women and a young child of just 15 years.

To some people, the etched names have deep and heartfelt meanings behind them, especially to one Navy veteran, Steve Whittaker.

“My high school pal is on that wall right there. We joined the Navy at the same time, and he didn’t make it, but I did. I was in this war, and I was on board an aircraft carrier. We lost 134 guys on fire. It was a rough time. I’m very proud,” Whittaker said.

Between deep breaths in attempt to gain his composure, Whittaker went on to express the feelings evoked by being able to see the wall in person.

“It brings back some bad memories. A lot of memories. We weren’t very well appreciated when we came home.

We couldn’t wear our uniforms, and I had more fights I think in the States than we ever had overseas. It’s a tribute to our comrades and shipmates. I hope we learn from it,” Whittaker said.

Bradley Baker’s history class, Lessons of the Vietnam War, took the opportunity to see the structure. His students were moved by the relations they were able to experience with the fallen soldiers, including senior Kate Parrish.

“It was just really neat to see the wall itself and all the names. They had these little cards with a picture, so you could go and find them on the wall. It created a bit of a connection, and it was a really neat experience,” Parrish said.

Another student in Baker’s class, senior Caden Sekelsky, also enjoyed the experience that came with the cards that were provided at the memorial.

“I think it was kind of cool to see all of the people who died there because it was in memorial of them, and it paid respects. I think it would be neat, like if you’re a family member or a friend, to go see their name and be able to etch it out,” Sekelsky said.

John Dermott, a proud American citizen, respects Vietnam War veterans and regrets how they were treated when they returned after the conflict.

“Everyone who served at the time—I was proud of them. The thing I really like is the statement that says ‘There’s a story behind every name that’s on the wall.’ I am glad to see them do this because it put a name to them,” Dermott said. “It was a shame; a lot of young men and women sacrificed, but over history if it wasn’t for people doing it, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have it as good as we’ve got, no matter what anybody says. I’m proud of every one of them for making a difference.”