Ron Mackedanz with a Nam buddie’s daughter (Sarah Orlando) at the wall in 2005. They were placing placards at the wall marking the guys from his unit who were killed in Nam. Photo contributed.

Ron Mackedanz with a Nam buddie’s daughter (Sarah Orlando) at the wall in 2005. They were placing placards at the wall marking the guys from his unit who were killed in Nam. Photo contributed.

The Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall brings out many emotions for Vietnam veterans such as Ron “Mack” Mackedanz who currently lives in Kandiyohi, Minn. The emotions include sadness, bitterness, grief and heavy-heartedness. Mack has been to the wall in Washington, D.C., several times and is coordinating the efforts to bring the Moving Wall to Willmar in early July.

Mack is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because he was wounded twice in Vietnam, saw his buddies die and continues to mourn over his missing-in-action cousin, Lyle Mackedanz, of Hutchinson. Lyle went to Vietnam before Mack. Lyle’s helicopter was shot down on Aug. 28, 1974, in Thua Thien, South Vietnam.  Lyle’s body was never recovered. His name is on the wall at Panel 51E – Line 22. That is why this wall means so much to Mack, and he is coordinating efforts to bring the “Wall” to Robbins Island in Willmar.

Background on the Vietnam Wall

Vietnam veteran John Devitt, of Stockton, Calif., attended the 1982 dedication ceremonies of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Recognizing what he saw as the healing nature of the wall, he vowed to make a transportable version of the Wall, a “Traveling Wall” so those who were not able to travel to Washington, D.C., would be able to see and touch the names of friends or loved ones in their own hometown. Using personal finances, Devitt founded Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. With the help of friends, the half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, named the Moving Wall, was built and first put on display to the public in Tyler, Texas, in 1984. The Moving Wall visits hundreds of small towns and cities throughout the U.S., staying five or six days at each site. Local arrangements for each visit are made months in advance by veterans’ organizations and other civic groups. Thousands of people all over the U.S. volunteered their time and money to help honor the fallen. Desire for a hometown visit of the Moving Wall was so high that the waiting list became very long. Vietnam Combat Veterans built a second structure of the Moving Wall. A third structure was added in 1989. In 2001, one of the structures was retired due to wear.

By 2006, there had been more than 1,000 hometown visits of the Moving Wall. The count of people who visited the Moving Wall at each display ranges from 5,000 to more than 50,000; the total estimate of visitors is in the tens of millions.

As the wall moves from town to town on interstates, it is often escorted by state troopers and up to thousands of local citizens on motorcycles. Many of these are Patriot Guard Riders, who consider escorting the Moving Wall to be a “special mission,” which is coordinated on their website. As it passes towns, even when it is not planning a stop in those towns, local veterans organizations sometimes plan for local citizens to gather by the highway and across overpasses to wave flags and salute the Wall. It has been on display in Minnesota four times: Cannon Falls and Long Prairie in 2006; Mankato in 2012 and Marshall in 2014. Willmar is the fifth Minnesota city to host it.

There are 1,193 Minnesota names on the wall, which will be in Willmar July 1-4.

The wall is a little more than half the size of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Washington, D.C., and has been touring the country for 30 plus years. It has been displayed 1,312+ times and stands 6 feet tall at the center and covers almost 300 feet from end to end. As of Memorial Day 2015, there are 58,307 names inscribed on the wall. This traveling memorial stands as a reminder of the great sacrifices made during the Vietnam War. It was made for the purpose of helping heal and rekindle friendships and to allow people the opportunity to visit loved ones in their hometown who otherwise may not be able to make the trip to Washington. The wall will provide a place for the public to gather, reminisce, find healing, and learn about the Vietnam War.