Vietnam Wall replica to make way through Hattiesburg

By SUSAN AMUNDSON,

Marion County will soon welcome the Wall That Heals when it arrives Nov. 14 at the Bluff Street Park. The wall will be onsite through Nov. 17.

Organizer Carlton Thornhill and the Wall That Heals committee have been working for months to make sure everything is perfect for its arrival. More than 30,000 people are expected to visit the memorial while in Columbia.

The Wall is a three-quarters-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The Wall depicts the name of every soldier who was killed and or is missing from the Vietnam War. More than 58,000 names are engraved on the Wall.

Thornhill said on Tuesday, Nov. 12, the ground crew for the Wall will arrive. A procession will begin at 12:30 p.m. from Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, located on Old Hwy. 11, including a convoy of 500 motorcycles. The route will take the Wall first toward the University of Southern Mississippi, then north on U.S. 49. The convoy will travel through Sumrall before making its way to U.S. 98 to travel to Columbia.

On Wednesday, according to Thornhill, there will be a sneak preview for the elite sponsors at 5 p.m. Following the preview there will be a meeting for volunteers and a special dinner for the elite sponsors.

The Wall will officially be open to the public beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, and will remain open for 24 hours a day until Sunday, Nov. 17, when the exhibit closes at 2 p.m. A special tent will be set up for veterans.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday there will be a flag-raising ceremony every morning at 8 a.m., a wreath-laying program at noon and the flag will be lowered at 4:30 p.m.

The theme on Thursday is “Forever Young.” The median age of the service men and women listed on the Wall is 22 years, 6 months. The youngest soldier killed was 15 years old and the oldest was 63 years old.

Area schools will have the opportunity to visit the memorial and the mobile educational center.

Friday will be “Coming Home, Hometown Heroes.” Local veterans will be participating in the flag ceremonies, and Saturday will be “Honoring the Women of War.” There are eight women whose names are on the Wall. In addition women had to step up to the plate when the men went off to war.

Also on Saturday there will be a flyover at 4:30 p.m. and a special guest will sing the National Anthem. At 6:30 p.m. that night a candlelight ceremony will take place with dignitaries reading the names of the 637 soldiers from Mississippi whose names are listed on the Wall.

A spiritual service will be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. with the memorial closing at 2 p.m.

Throughout the time the Wall is in Columbia there will be different things happening, including choral events, pinning ceremonies and distributing poppy seeds.

Parking will be available behind City Hall and at Columbia United Methodist Church. Parking is available at the Expo Center and the train will be available to take people to the walking bridge. The Columbia Trolley and church buses will be running to transport to and from the Bluff Street Park.