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Tupelo unveils Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall replica

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
The city of Tupelo, and Mississippi politicians and veterans from around the state gathered to unveil a 60-percent scaled sized Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at the Veteran’s Memorial Park Nov. 2.

The wall is an exact replica of the one that sits in Washington D.C., and stemmed from an idea a group in Tupelo had to build something that represented all the lives lost and impacted from the Vietnam War.

During the opening remarks Don Lewis, Tupelo Chief Operations Officer, emphasized how important the names on the wall are and spoke about some of the resounding numbers.

He said as of May 2017 there are 58,318 names on the wall. Among those names, 997 service members were killed on their first day in Vietnam and 1,448 were killed on their last day.

“For most Americans who hear this, they will only hear the numbers of the Vietnam War … and what the Vietnam War created,” Lewis said. “To those who survived the war and to the families who did not, they see the faces that feel the pain.”

Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton was among some of the state representatives who spoke during the unveiling ceremony.

“As a mayor, I’ve seen firsthand that government can do good things, I’ve seen firsthand that government can improve the lives of our citizens,” Shelton said.

However, he said most great things in the U.S. start in the private sector, and thus was the case with the wall creation.

“This [was a group] of private citizens who went to the government and we partnered together to do something great for not just the city of Tupelo, but the entire state of Mississippi, and for our veterans all over the nation,” Shelton said.

Among numerous veterans who served during the Vietnam War and attended the ceremony was retired Col. Carlyle “Smitty” Harris. During a mission in 1965, Harris’s F-105 Thunderchief was shot down and he became a prisoner of war for the next eight years.

A resident of Tupelo, Harris said seeing the wall established as a permanent memorial of the park was great to see.

“It’s awesome and it’s a tribute not to Tupelo, or Mississippi, this is a wonderful wonderful thing for people from all over to come see,” Harris said.

When visitors leave the park, Harris said he hopes they take away a sense of the “awesome valor” America’s service men and women have.