The Wall Impacts Oskaloosa
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Vietnam Vets upon arriving home from the battlefield found great controversy and often a hostile environment towards them. It’s a new day and time when the population appreciates the sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform.
With the thunder of motorcycle pipes and the flashing lights of law enforcement squads, the half-scale “Wall That Heals” was escorted into Oskaloosa on Tuesday afternoon, July 1st.
In an opening ceremony held on July 2nd, on the grounds of the Southern Iowa Fair, the re-assembled wall was honored by an opening ceremony that featured Gen. Tommy Franks (Ret.) as the keynote speaker. Franks’ last Army post was as the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, overseeing U.S. military operations in a 25-country region, including the Middle East. Franks retired on July 7, 2003.
Franks served a tour in Vietnam in 1967, as a young officer fresh from Artillery School. Franks enlisted in the Army in 1965 where he attended basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Private First Class Franks was selected to attend the Artillery and Missile Officer Candidate School in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1967 and was assigned to Vietnam as part of the US 9th Infantry Division, 4th Field Artillery.
During his speech Franks noted the wall and the more than fifty-eight-thousand that gave their lives in service to their country. “It’s always amazed me. For a nation that loves peace, and we are that nation, a nation that loves peace… in our history, we’ve never had a generation without a war.”
Franks remembered all of the wars, and those that fought in them, that came before the Vietnam War. “They were, as our veterans today are, sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Each of them swore a solemn oath, as a fighting man, to guard America, my country, and our way of life. To be prepared to give their life in her defense. To be prepared to give their lives in her defense. Fifty-eight-thousand names on that wall. An unlimited liability contract. Freedom is not free.”
Franks said that, the day we forget “those who have given their lives for our country, we are surely doomed to lose it [freedom].”
During the days the wall was in place at the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds, brothers, sisters, friends, moms and dads of those who served and had fallen during that bloody decade in American history found their way to the wall. Some placing a beer near their loved one’s name, in a last toast. Flowers and pictures popped up overnight as they came and wept and remembered the sacrifice made.
Carl Drost is a Vietnam Veteran who served his country in Vietnam in 1971, and was instrumental in helping “The Wall” return to Oskaloosa.
An emotional Drost spoke about The Wall and its impact on the community. “As a Vietnam Veteran, you can’t go to The Wall without feeling emotionally involved because, as I’ve tried telling my friends, until you’ve worn the uniform and been in a situation like this, nobody can understand. That’s not being critical of anybody that didn’t serve, it’s just that Vietnam was a unique place, in a unique time.”
“Everybody’s name on the wall died to protect the freedoms of Americans. At least that’s what we believe we were doing,” said Drost.
Drost said that he wanted everything to go “just right” for “The Wall” and its return to Oskaloosa. “The Wall” is to be set up in a solemn place, which Drost said that corner of the fairgrounds is. Drost worried about the races, and bounce houses, and fireworks, since “The Wall was to be in a solemn place. “But then I watched the people come to the wall. My first reaction was a detriment, it really turned out to be a good thing for the weekend.”
“In my opinion, things worked out really well,” Drost said.
As the sun began to set over “The Wall” one last time in Oskaloosa, dignitaries shared their final thoughts about the wall. The American Legion closed the ceremony with a 21 gun salute, to honor all those who fell.
With darkness came a lingering crowd, and the lights came on one last time over The Wall in Oskaloosa.
Along with the departure of the wall, is the truck tasked with hauling it. The truck’s load was a bit heavier as they carried away a bit more of the sadness area residents left upon The Wall.