Healing of Vietnam War wounds continues in Berkeley this spring as a traveling model of Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorialthe Wallmakes its way toward Civic Center Park.
A 250-foot-ton, 5- foot-tall black Wall of names will stand outside the Veterans Building from March 20 until March 23, the city council decided Tuesday night. The 58,212 names of American soldiers who died in Vietnam (as listed on the wall) will be read aloud day and night while the wall is here.
An exhibition of Wall artifacts will accompany the monument. Mourners often leave mementos when the wall passes through their town, and organizers either take those items back to the main Wall in Washington, DC, or mount them to join the tour.
Pacifist folksinger, Navy veteran and event organizer Country Joe McDonald said he has already secured the $10,000 minimum to display the wall. It costs $3,500 to ship the Wall in, $3,000 to put a temporary walkway beside the Wall, $3,000 for rain covering overhead, plus 24-hour security and other expenses, mayoral aide Tamlyn Bright told the Voice.
McDonald now needs volunteers, Veterans will probably take security duty and give grievance counseling to mourners, but there will be a much greater need for readers. It takes about 50 continuous hours of reading to get through the entire list of names.
"We'll pull it off," predicted Bright, who has been working with McDonald for some time. "there'll be lots of nice last minute details, but for something like this people will pull together and help, I think."
Mayor Shirley Dean is looking to the school district to help defray the cost of the event, either in kind or in cash. Bright said the University of California may chip in as well.
Dean hopes to see visits to the Wall tied in with Vietnam War lessons in public school history classes and in peace and Conflict classes at the University of California. Dean said it's important to teach the next generation about events that shaped the last in an atmosphere of serious critical analysis. These kids who are in school now don't know very much about the Vietnam War," Dean said.
Berkeley has spent the last few years revisiting old injuries from the Vietnam War, and developing anew attitude toward the military in general. "In 1995 Berkeley celebrated Veteran's Day," McDonald recalled, "and no one could remember a Veteran's Day before that, it had been such a long time."
At the same commemoration ceremony, a new bronze plaque with the names of Berkeley's Vietnam War veterans went up on the Veteran's Building. Berkleyans have taken an active role in developing an "electronic memorial" on the Internet, as well.
As McDonald sees it. now is the time for veterans and war resisters to set aside their differences and enjoy their generational bonds.
"We never got to party together because starting at 19 or younger we were either protesting the war or fighting the war," McDonald said. "The memorial allows people to come out and admit the war happened, and to say that we feel really bad about it, and it allows the younger generation to see that so they can make their own decisions if they ever face a similar situation."
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Director Jan Scruggs, who oversees the Wall tour, finds it strangely fitting that the Vietnam memorial should find its way to the heart of the peace movement.
"There's a sense of irony that the Wall is coming to Berkeley, since there was so much protest against the war," Scruggs said. "on the other hand, maybe Berkeley is the perfect place for just that reason."
For more information see Country Joe's Internet website at www.countryjoe.com/. Donations of time or money are directed to: Country Joe McDonald Wall, P.O. Box 7064, Berkeley, CA 94707.
Find out about the original Moving Wall. This is a different wall than the "Wall That Heals" from Washington, DC.