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November/December 2017

carol Reynolds

Tupelo Dedicates Its Replica Wall

Despite threatening rain clouds, the two polished granite walls engraved with names of the Vietnam War dead reflected the crowds that gathered the morning of November 2 to dedicate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica Wall at Veterans Park in Tupelo, Mississippi. At 60 percent the size of the original in Washington, D.C., this Wall’s wings are 290 feet long and engraved with 58,267 names.

It seemed like a long time since Janie Alexander and Barbara Rushing had first appeared before the Tupelo Veterans Council in early 2011 to propose that the city should have its own version of Maya Lin’s great achievement.

What had followed were several years of fundraising by VVA’s Tupelo Chapter 842 and the Marine Corps League Detachment 1220, in concert with the city of Tupelo. “It was a tremendous amount of work, but it’s an effort that brought together the entire community,” said Rex Moody, who serves as Mississippi State Council President and Chair of VVA’s Conference of State Council Presidents.

Eventually, the state legislature issued a bond for $750,000 to fund the bulk of the million-dollar project. Groundbreaking took place April 7, 2014. Now, more than three years later, the memorial was complete. “It’s hard to believe it’s finally completed,” Moody said. “I am very, very proud of what we have accomplished.”

On November 2 the crowds turned out, including many prominent Mississippi politicians, such as Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn, and Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton. “In Tupelo, Mississippi, we will never ­forget,” the mayor said.

Gesturing to the crowd, Speaker Gunn said: “What a great example of courage, community, and sacrifice. We are here today to honor you. We are proud of you.”

The people in the crowd—as they do at The Wall in Washington—sought names, told stories, shed tears, and took rubbings of names of special significance.

“It’s about the names, the stories,” Alexander said.

VVA President John Rowan was joined by National Treasurer Wayne Reynolds, Region 4 Director Spence Davis, Louisiana State Council President Terry Courville, as well as Moody and many other VVA members. Chapter 842 members presented 50th anniversary lapel pins to Vietnam veterans attending the ceremony.

In his remarks, President Rowan praised those who had worked so hard to make possible Tupelo’s replica of “the most perfect memorial.”

“It personalized the war,” he said. “It’s all of America on the Wall—everybody.”.





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