THE PSU VETERANS MEMORIAL was completed in 2004, but for many it never really “felt” completed until Nov. 11, 2010. That was the day that the university, the community and many veterans and their families officially dedicated the black granite panels that make up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
The memorial honors veterans of all times, but it was clear when it was built that “the Wall,” a dramatic black testament to the more than 58,000 soldiers who died in Vietnam, would be a major visual and emotional piece of the whole. Its significance in the memorial can be attributed to both the fact that it is a defining aspect of the lives of the Baby Boomer generation and also to the fact that it stretches as a backdrop across the width of the memorial.
The wall’s significance seemed to be heightened even more, when it began to succumb to the ravages of the intense Kansas sun. Crafted from painted steel, the wall was a gift of John Devitt, a Vietnam veteran who designed three half-sized versions of the original in Washington, D.C. The moving walls traveled each year around the U.S., but were never really intended to be permanently outdoors.
When the names on the wall began to fade and run, university officials realized the only solution would be to replace the steel panels with stone, a project that would require raising another $250,000.
Support for the project surprised even seasoned fundraisers. Perhaps because, as Jim Bishop, a Vietnam veteran and keynote speaker at the dedication said, the names on the wall weren’t just names. They were sons, brothers, fathers and friends.
And so, after a rainy fall morning, the clouds began to break and the sun began to shine on a standing-room-only crowd in the memorial. There were bagpipes and salutes and university officials gathered with vets and their families to snip the red ribbon. Behind them stretched the shining black granite wall – one that the Kansas sun can’t damage.
Finally, the work was done.