If you go
› What: The Wall That Heals, traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
› When: April 19-22. Open round-the-clock, starting with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. that Thursday.
› Where: Putnam County Sports Complex, 497 Whiteaker Springs Road, Cookeville, Tenn.
› Admission: Free.
› Contact: Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors Bureau, 931-526-2211, https://visitcookevilletn.com/thewallthatheals.
As efforts continue to find photos of Vietnam War veterans for a planned museum in the nation's capital, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will be in Middle Tennessee next week, its only scheduled stop in the state this year.
The Wall That Heals will be at the Putnam County Sports Complex in Cookeville, along with a mobile education center that tells the story of the Wall, the black granite monolith in Washington, D.C., that bears the names of the 58,315 Americans who lost their lives in the decade-long war.
(All times are Central)
Tuesday, April 17
4 p.m. Line the streets to welcome the Wall (from Interstate 40 down Jefferson to the Putnam County Courthouse square and along North Washington Avenue)
Thursday, April 19
10 a.m. Opening ceremonies
Friday, April 20
9 a.m.-2 p.m. Veterans Resource Fair: Joint Operation. A free event at Life Church, 2223 N. Washington Ave., to connect veterans and their families with access to resources.
Saturday, April 21
All day. Statewide Motorcycle Ride-In and Statewide Cruise-in for car club enthusiasts. Groups are encouraged to share their ETA for parking management and traffic control via link at https://visitcookevilletn.com/thewallthatheals
Sunday, April 22
All day. Statewide Motorcycle Ride-In and Statewide Cruise-In for car club enthusiasts (share ETA through link on website above)
1 p.m. Closing ceremonies.
Other regional stops
Can’t make it to Cookeville next week? The traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will make a couple more regional stops in coming months.
› April 26-29: Lincolnton, Ga. (about an hour northwest of Augusta)
› Nov. 11-14: Huntsville, Ala.
To add photos
For information on adding photos or biographical information to the Wall of Faces at www.vvfm.org (and the eventual museum), email Janna Hoehn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cookeville is among the first communities to host this new, larger, traveling exhibit, which features a three-quarter-scale Wall replica that is 375 feet long (almost the length of eight semi trailers) and 7.5 feet high at its tallest point. At this size, organizers say, the replica gives visitors a sense of the Wall rising above them as they walk toward the apex, a key feature of the design of the Wall in D.C. Also for the first time, visitors will be able to do name rubbings of individual service members' names, as is common at the full-size memorial.
"We are honored to host this powerful exhibit in Tennessee as we remember each of these heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country," Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement. "This is even more special for Tennessee, as the first Vietnam casualty is actually from this region. Spc. James Thomas "Tom" Davis is buried less than 20 miles from where the Wall will be on display."
Davis, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website, vvmf.org, was a cryptologist with the 3rd Radio Research Unit with the Army Security Agency, which provided technical advice for locating enemy transmitters, among other functions. The morning of Dec. 22, 1961, he was riding in a three-quarter-ton truck on a highway 12 miles outside Saigon when an electrically controlled landmine was exploded beneath the truck. Immediately, Viet Cong rebels opened fire with rifles, automatic machine guns and hand grenades. Davis escaped the vehicle but was felled by a bullet to the head about 50 feet away. He is buried at Good Hope Cemetery in Livingston, Tennessee.
Davis is one of 1,295 native Tennesseans who died in Vietnam, according to the VVFM's online records. Janna Hoehn, a Hawaii resident who volunteers with the organization, is seeking photos to display with each veteran. Photos and bios are searchable on the website's Wall of Faces.
Following a Feb. 25 story in the Times Free Press about her quest, Hoehn has collected several more photos of fallen veterans from friends and family members in Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama. Many share personal stories when they reach out to her.
"The families are so grateful that there is someone who wants to honor and remember their loved ones," Hoehn says.
Many families supply additional biographical information, which she adds to the veteran's online profile.
"Sometimes the calls are very emotional," she says.
Once the museum opens, photos will be enlarged "from floor to ceiling" once a year, Hoehn says, rotating all day with other fallen heroes who share the same birthday.
Heidi Zimmerman, director of communications for the VVMF, says about $42 million has been raised for the $130 million project, which will be located on the National Mall near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Much of the expense, she says, comes from locating the center underground to preserve the sight lines between the Wall and the Lincoln Memorial.
The traveling wall, originally a half-scale replica, was unveiled by the VVMF on Veterans Day in 1996. Since then, it has visited nearly 600 cities throughout the nation and toured Ireland and Canada. Last year alone, it drew more than 250,000 visitors. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall draws about 5.2 million visitors each year.
Officials say that bringing the wall into local communities serves a dual purpose for veterans, living and dead.
It "allows the souls enshrined on the memorial to exist once more among family and friends in the peace and comfort of familiar surroundings," says a news release. And it "provides thousands of veterans who have been unable to cope with the prospect of facing the Wall [in D.C.] to find the strength and courage to do so within their own communities, thus allowing the healing process to begin."
The Wall That Heals is erected in a chevron shape with 24 individual panels. It is constructed of powder-coated aluminum and supported by an aluminum frame.
Like the full-size memorial, the names on the replica are listed by day of casualty, beginning at the center. The names start on the East Wall (right-hand side) and work their way out to the end of that wing, picking up again at the far end of the West Wall (left-hand side) and working their way back into the apex, joining the beginning and end of the conflict.
The accompanying mobile education center is housed in the trailer that carries the replica. The trailer's exterior walls open to reveal display cases with photos of service members whose names are found on the Wall, along with letters and memorabilia left at the Wall in D.C. The mobile museum also includes a map of Vietnam and a chronological overview of the conflict.
"Through The Wall That Heals, we are able to return the names home to communities across the country and allow Vietnam veterans and their family members who cannot make it to Washington, D.C., the opportunity to see the Wall. It gives communities a teaching moment for younger generations on why we should honor those who have served and sacrificed so much," said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of the VVMF.
The Wall That Heals will be open 24 hours a day during its four-day stop in Cookeville. There is no charge to view it.
Putnam County Executive Randy Porter says once visitors pay their respects at the traveling Wall, he hopes they'll "take advantage of the opportunities to fulfill their patriotic notions" by visiting Davis' grave in nearby Livingston and other veterans memorial points of interest in the Upper Cumberland.
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.
Photos still needed
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund volunteer Janna Hoehn says she has made progress in her search for area veterans’ photos for the VVMF website and the planned museum, even completing the search in some counties. She says yearbook or obituary photos may be used, “however we prefer finding family as they have the best-quality photos.” She is asking for help from anyone who can help her track down family members or acquaintances of the following service members.
Name / DOB-DOD / Home of Record
James T. Gray 1940-1965 Chattanooga
Robert E. Hamilton 1943-1968 Chattanooga
Manuel A. Hicks, Jr. 1947-1967 Chattanooga
Emanuel Jones, Jr. 1947-1969 Chattanooga
Glenn H. Kelley 1942-1965 Chattanooga
Rayfon Lofton 1944-1966 Chattanooga
John R. Prince 1925-1967 Chattanooga
Franklin D. Ratliff 1948-1968 Chattanooga
Carlton Ross 1947-1968 Chattanooga
Clifton Tanksley 1931-1967 Chattanooga
Tommy L. Taylor 1947-1968 Chattanooga
Haywood W. Tipsy, Jr. 1947-1967 Chattanooga
Tomas C. Tucker 1943-1969 Chattanooga
Johnnie L. Vaught, Jr. 1949-1968 Chattanooga
James F. Watson 1932-1968 Chattanooga
Paul P. Cabe 1952-1971 Guild
Billy Dodson 1933-1966 Jasper
Gary B. Kilgore 1946-1968 Whitwell
William L. Byrd 1944-1970 Rossville
Billy R. Head 1939-1969 Chickamauga
John E. Norton 1951-1970 Fort Oglethorpe
Billie H. Smith 1943-1966 Rossville
Benny R. Dupree 1950-1969 Summerville
Nathaniel Knowles 1942-1967 Menlo
Thomas S. Jones 1947-1967 Rome
Eddie L. Spivey 1937-1970 Rome
Louis L. Clanton 1944-1968 Collinsville
Lewis E. Cantrell 1944-1967 Centre
Jimmie L. Chamblee 1945-1970 Centre