Pearl River will roll out the red, white, and blue carpet on Nov. 13 when "The Wall that Heals" passes through town on its way to a scheduled display in Franklinton.
The exhibit, a ¾-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., will be on display Nov. 15-18 at the Washington Parish Fairgrounds in Franklinton. But first, the traveling exhibit will make a brief stop at Poitevent Park, 66306 La. 41 in Pearl River.
It's expected to arrive in Pearl River at about 10 a.m. on Nov. 13 The caravan is expected to continue to Franklinton no later than noon.
Although the exhibit will remain enclosed in the truck carrying it through town, Pearl River Mayor David McQueen and Alderwoman Bridget Bennett wanted to be sure to offer a communitywide welcome.
“They will come off Interstate 12 and head through town,” Bennett said. “We will have schools, businesses, and residents waving flags to pay tribute.”
“We wanted to get all involved with the welcome through town,” McQueen added.
Bennett said officers with the Pearl River Police Department will escort the truck to Poitevent Park. Everyone traveling with the exhibit will have time to have a snack, take pictures and listen to an invocation from the Rev. Terry Hoyt, of Jesus Name Apostolic Church, Bennett said.
Pearl River High Principal John Priola said his students will be among those out on the route to welcome The Wall That Heals. In addition, he said, some AP history students will take a field trip to see the wall and take in the educational exhibits that go along with it.
“The town asked if some of the schools would be out for The Wall that Heals, and students are looking forward to it to show support," he said.
Bennett said it's an honor to have The Wall That Heals make a stop in Pearl River. Wherever the exhibit goes, it is visited by locals and visitors from neighboring areas, including veterans. For many, it's a chance to see the closest thing to the real memorial without traveling to Washington, D.C.
“We are very excited about it,” Bennett said. “We started talking about it in June (when we learned it would stop here briefly on its way to Franklinton.)"
The Pearl River/St. Tammany connection will continue once the exhibit is in place at the Washington Parish Fairgrounds. McQueen said he will be honored to read some of the Louisiana names on the wall during ceremonies at the Fairgrounds on Nov. 17.
“I was very honored to be asked,” he said. “I will be happy to be there. We do everything we can to support our veterans.”
State Sen. Beth Mizell, whose District 12 encompasses parts of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes, said it was a Vietnam veteran who asked her to look into bringing The Wall That Heals to Franklinton.
“A friend, a Vietnam veteran, came to my office for a visit,” she said. “It was kismet. I asked if he was watching the series on PBS about the (Vietnam) War” and suddenly he asked her about the exhibit.
“He said, ‘If we could get that wall, I think it could help a lot of us heal.’”
Mizell applied to have the wall visit Franklinton, and the town was chosen to be one of 38 U.S. towns in the to host the exhibit this year.
“It has been an incredible experience for all of us,” Mizell said.
Glen Rester, the Vietnam veteran who visited Mizell’s office, agreed. He said he had wanted to see the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C., for many years.
“A year ago in August, my wife and daughter surprised me with a trip," said Rester, who served in the 101st airborne in Vietnam in 1968-69. "(But) a lot of veterans won’t ever get to go see that, so I asked Sen. Mizell (about bringing the traveling wall here.) And now it’s happening.
"I hope more will come and see the wall," he added.
It is, after all, a wall that heals.
“The whole purpose is to make sure we never forget” those who served.
The Wall That Heals will be assembled on Nov. 14 at the Washington Parish Fairgrounds, and public viewing will begin at 5 p.m. The exhibit will be open around the clock until closing ceremonies at 1 p.m. on Nov. 18. A candlelight memorial and reading of the names on the wall will take place Nov. 17 at 6 p.m.
For more information, visit www.thewallfranklinton.com