I had the opportunity to accompany “The Wall That Heals” to West Point. It was being displayed as part of the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam Conflict. I was there for five days in October with the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation (VVMF). It was an amazing and unique experience.
One of the highlights of the week was the opportunity to meet Gary Sinise, better known as Lt. Dan from the movie Forrest Gump. He was at West Point to receive the Thayer Award for his work helping active duty military and Veterans. It is the highest honor presented by the United States Military Academy.
The award is given to a citizen of the United States whose character, accomplishments, and stature in the civilian community draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives: duty, honor, country. In Forrest Gump, Lt. Dan, Forrest and Bubba are fictional members of the unit I served with – they wear the 9th Infantry Division logo. I always have it on as a volunteer; in the pictures, it is the circular red, white and blue patch on my sleeve.
One place I wanted to see at West Point was their Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There is a jetty rock containing a plaque dedicated to the West Point graduates who fell in Vietnam. It is a landscaped Memorial with benches from the various graduating classes and is situated near Michie Stadium, on shoreline of the Lusk Reservoir. The chair of the effort to build this Memorial was John (Jack) Wheeler, who later became the Chairman of the VVMF during the building of The Wall.
Michael McMahon, a Vietnam Veteran and volunteer at both the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, DC., recently had the opportunity to visit West Point with the Wall That Heals, a traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica and mobile education center. Michael writes about his experiences here: