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July/August 2019

The Sister Wall

Jim Eddleman was a medic in Vietnam who carried wounded comrades to medevac helicopters. During the Tet Offensive he vowed to do something for Vietnam veterans when he got home. He was true to his promise in a spectacular way with the full backing of his wife. He and Charlene donated two and a half million dollars for a memorial and then gave forty-six acres of his third-generation family farm for the building of the memorial. Originally, the Eddlemans wanted to remain anonymous. They first tried giving one million dollars to a museum for their program, but zoning laws stood in the way. But this failure led to the present-day memorial.

The Missouri National Veterans Memorial in Perryville was completed in the autumn of 2018. It is an exact replica of The Wall in Washington, D.C., with black granite from the same quarry in India. The names are listed the same as the original Wall, from those who fell first to those who fell last. It is so exact that if a name is misspelled on the D.C. Memorial then it is misspelled the same way on the wall in Perryville. The monument is oriented toward the sun the same way it is in the Nation’s Capital. It had been called a “sister wall,” and has a flag exchange with the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Jim Eddleman set the final piece of polished granite in place.

Planners sought to “bring America’s wall to America’s heartland.” The memorial complex is a testament to the dedication and support of business leaders, corporations, civic groups, educational groups, private citizens, and veterans. Perryville City Administrator Brent Buerck said: “Our hope is to celebrate the sacrifice of every veteran, of every era, of every war, and we still need help to get that done.” The nonprofit memorial is funded privately. To further provide financial support, tribute bricks and pavers with individual veteran’s names are sold and installed. These bricks include the names of veterans from all of the nation’s recent wars.

Support is both wide and deep. Every Tuesday morning fifty to seventy people come to the memorial’s Welcome Center for coffee and discussion. “The support really is crazy,” said Nancy Guth, the project’s executive director. Guth worked for the Association of Miraculous Medals for more than forty years. The support for this memorial, she says, “has blown me away.”

While the Replica Wall is the complex’s centerpiece, every detail has been considered in the light of what will help bring solace to veterans, their families, and their communities. During construction board members were on site every day. Work has gone smoothly since 2017. Jim Knotts, president and CEO of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said: “I’m really excited the group in Perryville is going through such great lengths to complete a full-scale replica that is as accurate and as complete as it can possibly be.”

Although the wall is finished, some buildings and plans are not complete. The Welcome Center is up and running, with cathedral ceilings of warm, golden-brown wood, clean white walls, and large windows. Construction of the museum is nearly complete, and curators are seeking to expand the collection. If you have an artifact that you think may interest them, contact Nancy Guth at 573-547-2035 or go to www.mnvmfund.org

“We will have monuments throughout the park to help visitors reflect, remember, and find solace,” said Jackie Smith, the former NFL star and a supporter of the memorial “Visitors will be able to truly become absorbed by the sacrifice of those who serve. It is all-encompassing in its impact.”

A Veterans Hall will be built for events and receptions hosted by veterans organizations, individuals, and businesses. A contemplative space also is planned where memorial services and ceremonies will be held.

There also are plans for a cemetery on the grounds. And there is a plan for an area called the Scattering Oak Grove, with benches under large trees where family members can leave the cremated remains of veterans.

In addition, an interfaith chapel is planned, as well as a Reflecting Fountain with water sounds conducive to meditation. Running water is the sound of life, Guth said, and a grand way to remember those who have been lost to us.

On Father’s Day, there was an In Memory program in which the names of veterans were read out one by one. The ceremony is similar to the In Memory ceremony held every June at The Wall in D.C. (See “Parting Shot,” p. 50), but the Perryville ceremony also includes the names of veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the recent conflicts in the Middle East.

The Missouri National Veterans Memorial is open twenty-four hours every day of the year. The Welcome Center is open all year, Monday through Friday, 8:00-5:00. Holiday hours may differ, so check ahead by calling 573-547-2035. Parking is ample and free. Admission, too, is free, but a $10 donation is suggested.





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