Traveling Vietnam Wall comes to PSU this week


UNIVERSITY PARK – Robert Booz flew over the jungles of Vietnam as an Air Force pilot. Debra Burger’s brother was declared missing in action soon after she celebrated her 11th birthday. Then-Penn State student Howard Davidson demonstrated against the war and marched in Washington, D.C.

Their stories are among many local ones that have been shared as part of a WPSU project about the Vietnam War. The project culminates with the installation of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall replica at Penn State’s Innovation Park during four days of community reflection and remembrance from Oct. 5–8.

“I hope the wall brings healing,” said Burger, who lives in Bellefonte. “This may be a veteran’s first time seeing the wall. Even though it’s a smaller version, the symbolism is all there and it can be very emotional. If we heal one veteran from that war, it's worth everything.”

The Traveling Wall, an 80 percent replica of the memorial wall located in Washington, D.C., will be open continuously from noon on Thursday, Oct. 5, until 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8, and will be located between 100 and 200 Innovation Blvd.

Fifty Vietnam veterans will be recognized during the opening ceremony, which will also include Penn State President Eric J. Barron, and alumnus, retired Navy SEAL and current Penn State Board of Trustees member Ryan McCombie as speakers, at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 5. Veterans will share their experiences during the four days, and a reenactment camp will be present on Oct. 6. Admission is free to visit the wall and for parking. 

Check out the WPSU website for the full schedule and details. Visitors can learn how the wall is organized, what the symbols on the wall mean and how to find names on the wall. Guests can also make rubbings of names and pay tribute by leaving personal mementos.

Booz, from Centre Hall, served in Vietnam for one year. He delivered supplies and ammunition to ground troops and returned deceased service members. More than 58,000 names are memorialized on the wall.

“There’s 27 names on that wall that my crew and I brought out of the jungle,” Booz said. “That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I’ve visited the wall: there's 27 bodies there. I hope people will reflect on the cost of freedom, whether here or abroad, as we face things today in our world.”

A Penn Hills’ native, Davidson was a Penn State student during the same time as Booz and joined the University’s chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society, which demonstrated and protested against the war. He said he supported the troops but opposed the policy makers in Washington, D.C.

“We had friends who went to Vietnam. We were opposed to the war, not the soldiers,” Davidson said. “It’s very pertinent today, with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and threats all over the world, to look back at Vietnam. We need to talk about it and pass that knowledge on to other generations.”

WPSU’s “The Vietnam War: Telling the Pennsylvania Story” includes the 60-minute documentary, “A Time to Heal”; the radio program, “Time to Lay it Down”; and a digital archive where Pennsylvanians, including veterans, their family members and those who demonstrated have shared their stories about how the war impacted them.

(Content courtesy Penn State News).


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