By How Miller
Bringing The Wall That Heals to people that are not likely to make the trip to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is no simple thing. But for the last four years, veteran Vic Muschler and his crew, along with the help of local volunteers, have been able to smoothly make it happen. Great care is taken to handle the pieces of the wall with the respect that the men and women whose inscribed names they carry deserve.
The non-profit Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the original sponsors of “The Wall” in Washington, D.C., decided years ago that more national and personal healing could be accomplished by building a portable three-quarter scale model and bringing it to welcoming sites across the country. It was entered into service on Veterans Day 1996.
Rick Carter, Sentinel photographer, suggested we drive north to San Luis Obispo to witness, participate in, and photograph the setup. We learned that first there is an agreement with a local sponsor, in this case initiated by the SLO County Veterans Service Officer Morgan Boyd, followed by lots of planning, to include procuring the use of a local site, donated here by the Madonna (Inn) family. Then, determining a mutually beneficial time for the event weekend, and recruiting the many volunteers required, largely provided by the local VVA Chapter 982. SLO County, Legacy Village wellness center, and the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum, all were major sponsors.
When the time arrives, the crew drives the meticulously protected cultured marble slabs in their dedicated van to the site. The crew then assembles the frame to securely accept the 140 panels. In this case, it was done amid a great deal of rain. The next day, volunteers arrive to carry the panels from the van to the frame, a hundred plus yards away, across the muddy field. Some of these volunteers have a very personal mission; they are there to carry the panel that their loved one’s name is on. Discovering this, I signed up for two panels.
Once the crew is assembled, Vic coaches the carriers on how to respectfully and securely carry each panel. Vic delivers his instructions with an air of authority that reminded me of being back in the army. His attention to detail and sense of purpose made the message well received.
This wonderful and beautiful location in the ample field next to the famous Madonna Inn was uncharacteristically difficult due to the atmospheric rivers that have pelted California’s Central Coast, seemingly all year. The resulting muddy fields presented challenges to carrying and emplacing the panels, between the puddles, wet grass, and slippery mud. However, not one grumble was heard.