If you’ve ever made a visit to the Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., you would likely remember the reflective black granite, the gentle sloping shape of the wall, and over 58,000 etched names of those who gave their lives in the Vietnam War.
Perryville, Missouri, is now home to the only full-scale replica of this memorial wall. With the last panels installed last week, phase 1 of the development of Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial (MNVM) is complete.
Don Fulford, president of the board for the MNVM, says this project all began with Perryville native Jim Eddleman, who fought in the Vietnam War.
“He had always vowed that if he ever had the chance and the ability, he’d remember those guys,” says Fulford. “He brought the idea to the board about four years ago - he knew it was time to give back after 50 years.”
Roughly six years ago, Eddleman sat on a bench in the early morning when the traveling memorial wall came through Perryville. Here, not only did he think his hometown would serve as a great location for a replica, but perhaps on his own land.
“We get this question a lot: ‘Why Perryville? Why in the middle of this piece of farmland?’” says Fulford. “We represent the heartland of America. When you come here, it’s accessible; the backdrop is grain bins and tractors. So the healing properties of this land have been so powerful for so many.”
According to Fulford, the names on the replica are arranged exactly as they are on the original wall in Washington D.C. The MNVM is also directionally situated so that the sun rises and sets almost identically on both memorials.
The thousands of names, representing those killed in the Vietnam War, are placed in chronological order, which gives the wall its slight triangular shape.
“If you look to the far left, those were the first to be killed in order to the center- the peak- when hundreds of men were dying every day,” says Fulford. “Until the war ended at the other end, which was down to a much smaller number.”
The memorial wall in Washington D.C. was designed by Maya Ying Lin, who was 21 at the time. Fulford says she came up with the striking reflective nature of the wall.
“You’re looking at the names, and it’s looking back to you,” says Fulford.
Fulford says they currently invite veterans for coffee at the MNVM every Tuesday. While this event has gathered 30-50 veterans each week, many more come to pay their respects throughout the week, at all times of the day and night.
“From what I understand, people who visit the wall do it at night or early in the morning, because it’s personal to them. They went to basic training with their friends on the wall, so when they come back and see their friends’ names, it’s certainly moving,” says Fulford. “The most important thing is they’re healing, they’re remembering.”
But, the wall was just a first step, and much work has yet to be done on the memorial. Fulford says they’re looking to do bigger and better things in the near future.
“Phase 2 includes all kinds of great things like walking paths and other memorials to other wars,” says Fulford. “But we still need feedback from other veterans, as well as support.”
Fulford says they’ve had many suggestions on other events to honor at the MNVM, including the Desert Storm War, and a possible memorial on Agent Orange. A museum is also in the works, for which Fulford says they’re still developing principles and policies.
“We’re saying very loudly, very proudly from our little part of America, that we’re proud of our veterans, no matter how they serve or where they serve,” says Fulford.
A candlelight vigil will be held at the MNVM on National POW/MIA day on September 21 at 7 p.m. to remember those still missing or lost in action. An official opening ceremony will be held on May 18, 2019.
The MNVM project is privately funded, and all work is done by a volunteer effort.