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Today is December 11, 2017

Tupelo recognizes Vietnam veterans with memorial

By Nancy Jo Maples

Tupelo recognizes Vietnam veterans with memorial

The Vietnam Memorial Replica Wall site opened Nov. 2 in Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Memorial Replica Wall

North Mississippi is home to a new memorial paying tribute to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who fought in the Vietnam War and were killed or deemed missing in action.

Located in Veterans Memorial Park in Tupelo, the memorial site opened Nov. 2 and will be available for viewing 24 hours a day seven days a week. It is a permanent replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that has been located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., since 1982.

The replica is 60 percent of the size of the original; it stands more than 6 feet in height and measures 300 feet long. Made of black granite and designed in the shape of the letter “V,” a walkway leads to the apex and stretches along the left and right wings of the “V.”

Names of the 58,267 American soldiers killed in action or missing in action between 1959 and 1975 are etched in the granite and are available for name rubbings. Those names are listed in chronological order by date of casualty. Beneath the dates, the names are listed alphabetically. Also featured at the site is a granite monument with the names of Mississippians killed in the war, and those names are in alphabetical order.

Twenty-four benches dot the landscape recognizing certain veterans who served the United States during the Vietnam War. Granite panels pay tribute to specific veterans. The benches and panels were offered for purchase during fundraising efforts. Other monies were collected through benefactors and sponsorships. Additional funds came from the governments of the City of Tupelo, Lee County, Itawamba County and the State of Mississippi. The project cost more than $1.5 million to complete.

Located at 800 North Veterans Boulevard, Tupelo’s Veterans Memorial Park is less than a mile off I-22, providing easy access for travelers, and is expected to become a tourist attraction.

The park encompasses more than 200 acres, exhibits a striking display of flying flags and showcases other military monuments such as the supersonic fighter-bomber plane Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

The park is well-lit, has restroom facilities and is beautifully landscaped. The replica will serve as an education center with displays and information to tell visitors the story of the Vietnam War.

The idea for the permanent project spawned from the traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Moving Wall, as the traveling exhibit is called, had been on exhibit in 2001 at Itawamba Community College in nearby Fulton.

The Moving Wall tells the story of the Vietnam War and the era surrounding the conflict, giving onlookers an educational experience in a historical and cultural context. The Moving Wall, about half the size of the original one in the nation’s capital, travels across the United States and stops in cities for about a week to offer a viewing opportunity for Americans who might be unable to visit the nation’s capital to see the original.

The Moving Wall drew about 35,000 visitors during the week it was on display 16 years ago at the community college. A group of interested citizens recognized the educational value in a permanent display and banded together to raise awareness about the significance of such a memorial, to seek appropriations and to build the permanent replica. Fundraising started in 2011.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the structure took place in March 2017, and construction was completed in October.

The original Vietnam Veterans Memorial and its replica have been dubbed “healing walls” because seeing and touching the wall has brought peace and closure to friends, family members and surviving veterans.

For more information visit the memorial’s website at www.msvietnammemorial.com.

Award winning journalist Nancy Jo Maples lives in Lucedale and is the author of “Staying Power: The Story of South Mississippi Electric Power Association.” Contact Maples at nancyjomaples@aol.com or follow her on Twitter @nancyjomaples.

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