Merced County Times Newspaper
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Times Photos by Jonathan Whitaker

‘Wall That Heals’ brings honor, remembrance, understanding


It was a weekend of flag salutes, the singing of the national anthem, Huey helicopter flyovers, the somber sound of TAPS, the lighting of candles, and most of all: the sight of 58,281 names on a shiny black granite wall that remind us of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for this country and freedom.

For four days through March 31, area residents and visitors were able to experience “The Wall That Heals,” a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that stands in Washington D.C.

The special event at Merced College was brought to Merced with tremendous support from the Merced Sunrise Rotary, Merced College, Mike and Lori Gallo, and Linda and Kenny Jelacich.

“The Vietnam Memorial holds special meaning for our family,” said Lori Gallo during the Opening Ceremony. “One of the names on the wall is Peter Joseph Gallo, First Lieutenant United States Army, the oldest son of Joseph E. Gallo, brother to my husband, Mike, and his sister, Linda. He enlisted February 8, 1966, and was killed in action on March 30, 1968. … It’s very important to me and our families that we remember his life of service, and how he and so many of his peers gave of themselves so that others may know peace.”

Like the Gallos, there were many veterans, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who spent time at the wall over the weekend, looking for their loved ones names, and taking pictures or stenciling a name with pencil and paper.

The memorial was free to visit, and open 24 hours a day.

“The Wall That Heals” and its weekend in Merced was also to honor those Vietnam War veterans who came home to America.

“We talk about World War II folks as being the greatest generation, and I don’t know,” said Admiral Michael Seward, USCG (ret.) of Hilmar. “I spent more time with the Vietnam War vets, and have seen what you have done for this country, not just in uniform, but what you did after you came out of the service. You held your heads up. You re-entered society. You raised families. You engaged with your communities. You kept that spirit of service to the country, even though you were out of uniform, you made a difference in society, and particularly for veterans services organization. Without your support and your membership, we would not be receiving the benefits we are today. And our current generation who are still serving, and the generation that will come after them who haven’t served yet, you have been an inspiration to them.”

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