Vietnam Veterans Group Brings ‘The Wall That Heals’ Back to Montana

by Flathead Beacon, Justin Franz

A replica of Washington D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be on display in Kalispell this week thanks to the efforts of a local veterans group.

“The Wall That Heals” will be on display just north of Rosauers at 2000 U.S. Highway 93 from Sept. 7-10. Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Northwest Montana Chapter 1087 are supporting the display, which will be open 24 hours a day while it’s in the Flathead Valley.

This week’s visit marks the second time the wall has come to the Flathead Valley since 2013. John Wise, a veteran and member of Chapter 1087, said the 2013 display in Whitefish was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of a Vietnam Veterans of America group in this part of the state. Today, it’s one of the most active Vietnam veteran groups in Montana with more than 100 members, according to Wise. The group organizes fundraisers to help local veteran causes, including the food pantry and the Montana Veterans Home.

“Our whole goal is to serve veterans, and not just Vietnam vets, but anyone who served,” he said.

The Wall That Heals is approximately 250 feet in length and features more than 58,000 names of service members killed during one of America’s longest conflicts. The wall was created in 1996 as a way to bring the experience of the Washington D.C. memorial to veterans who can’t make the trip. Along with the half-scale memorial, The Wall That Heals comes with a mobile education center that teaches the history of the Vietnam War.

Wise said it wasn’t until 1994 that he could bring himself to visit the wall. He said visiting the wall or its replica is a moving experience.

“It brings out a lot of emotions for veterans,” he said. “It’s really hard to explain the experience.”

The wall is currently on display in Washington and will be arriving in Montana on Sept. 6. It will be led by a motorcycle procession from Troy to Kalispell that day, arriving around 11:30 a.m. The wall will be set up that afternoon and will officially go on display on Sept. 7 following an opening ceremony at 10 a.m.

Vietnam Veterans Group Brings ‘The Wall That Heals’ Back to Montana