Volunteers sought for ‘The Wall That Heals’ coming in October

Veterans and their families, such as this grandfather and grandson, will be able to get close to The Wall That Heals, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., when it visits Knoxville this fall.
Optimist Club of West Knoxville is seeking volunteers from Farragut and other areas of East Tennessee as The Wall That Heals comes to Knox County this fall.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund organization, which built Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also built The Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. VVMF, Vietnam Veterans of America Capt. Bill Robinson Chapter 1078, and Knox County will host the replica in Knoxville starting at 6 p.m. each evening from Wednesday, Oct. 4, through Sunday, Oct. 8, at Lynnhurst Cemetery at 2300 W. Adair Drive.

“The last time The Wall That Heals, which includes 58,318 names, came to East Tennessee was 26 years ago,” Robert “Buzz” Buswell, Knox County director of Veterans & Senior Services, said.

Optimist Club and Vietnam Veterans of America Capt. Bill Robinson Chapter 1078 members Buswell and Chris Albrecht made the presentation to club members. It came during the Optimist meeting in Seasons Innovative Bar & Grille Thursday, July 27. They said Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund organization also is seeking photos of veterans whose names appear on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Albrecht said volunteers are being sought to help man The Wall and help attendees find names. To volunteer, go to www.knoxwall.org or http://www.vvmf.org/twth.

The idea to bring The Wall That Heals to Knox County came about during a discussion between Buswell, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Eddie Maness, founder of HonorAir Knoxville.

“At one of those gatherings, we were talking about HonorAir and how many flights they made and so forth,” Buswell said. “We were talking with Eddie and he was sort of choked up.”

On one of those flights with Vietnam veterans was a man afraid to go up to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Mannis thought the veteran was afraid of flying or had a physical condition.

“That wasn’t what it was about. He told Eddie from his standpoint that the difficulty was that almost every night when he went to sleep, he still had experiences that related to Vietnam during his sleep,” Buswell said. “He’d been within 300 feet of the Wall once but he had never gone down to the Wall.”

Volunteers on the flight stay with veteran attendees, so the participants are treated as a unit.

“They are a unit from the time they have that breakfast before the flight until they come back and have the ‘You did a great job’ breakfast later on,” Buswell said. “So these guys talked about it on the flight and talked about it on the bus, so the time when it came to go to the memorial, he actually went down to the memorial.”

Two weeks later, the men who went on that HonorAir flight reunited for another breakfast and showed photos.

The veteran who finally visited the wall told Mannis after returning home to applause and a band

greeting at McGhee-Tyson Airport, “‘you know what happened that night? I went home and I went to

sleep and I didn’t go back to Vietnam and I haven’t since,’” Buswell said.

In his conversations with veterans groups, Buswell said he learned about The Wall.

“I called them [about bringing The Wall to East Tennessee] and they said, ‘Yeah, we’d like to come to Knoxville,’” he said.