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February 16, 2012

The Wall That Heals Visits Veteran's Hometown!

The Vietnam Veteran's Wall Arrives In Bakersfield, CA!

The 'Wall that Heals' has made its way to the hometown of  Vietnam Veteran Sgt. Jimmy D. McDaniel. After growing up in Bakersfield, my father graduated high school in 1963 and soon joined the US Army. Within a couple of years he met my mother who also grew up in the small town just a few blocks away and they married in 1966. On Valentine's Day of 1967 he received his orders to be deployed to Vietnam in March of 1968 and completed his tour returning with the Medal of Honor, hearing loss and had been exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. He has a remarkable military career that he proudly looks back on with no regrets. Today he suffers from Parkinson's Disease, Neuropathy, PTSD & more from the exposure to Agent Orange. He and my mother are doing well and after retiring a decade ago have moved from the central California area to the Foothills of Northern California where they are surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was happy to hear that the wall is visiting his home town and still is very proud of his service and doing good.

On Wednesday, dozens of riders with the American Legion met up at the Grapevine to escort the wall. "That’s the scoreboard of freedom on the wall,” said Boomer Montgomery, President of American Legion Riders, Post 26. “You can see what the cost really is." The memorial is taking a road trip across the US and added Bakersfield to its stops. Inside the truck, is a half scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It stands 5 ft. tall and 125 ft. long. It's about $5,000 state to state.

“It’s our way of showing love for our veterans and what they’ve done for us,” Montgomery said. “It brings the Kern County names here to where their loved ones can see it. If they can’t make it to D.C. at least they can see their name on the wall and touch it, be with their spirit.”

He and the American Legion riders led the wall down the 99 Freeway, bringing it to the Beale Library. Bob Dobek and his wife have been driving the 'Wall the Heals' truck for three years. They are licensed truck drivers with more than a million miles under their belt. Dobek fought in Vietnam and says the memorial holds special meaning for him.

"I’ve got 14 buddies on that wall. It's very close and personal to me,” said Dobek. “I grew up with kids in grade school and junior high, and they’re no longer with me, so you really didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye to a lot of your friends.”

He drove the wall to Bakersfield two years ago. It came back this time because three Kern County veterans will be riding bikes from Bakersfield to the full scale permanent memorial near the Lincoln Monument in Washington.

"It’s very symbolic because that is our goal to arrive to that wall in Washington D.C.,” said Wesley Barrientos, an Iraq War veteran. “To see it here and know that we'll be touching the real one, it means the world."

Barrientos lost both his legs in 2007 to a roadside bomb in Iraq. He, along with veterans Jeremy Staat and 65-year-old Dale Porter, plan to bike to the nation’s capital in 100 days. They want to raise awareness about education and health care for veterans.

Dozens of veterans carried pieces of the wall and set it up in the library's parking lot where it will be until Monday. The replica was built is 1996 and is made out of black powdered-coated aluminum.

The memorial lists the names of 58,272 soldiers who died or went missing in the Vietnam War. 156 soldiers from Kern County died in the Vietnam War. Dobek says the wall helps give soldiers closure. “If you’ve ever been wounded before, it hurts,” he said. “If you don’t clean that wound, it doesn’t heal properly, and 40 or 50 years later, there’s still a lot of guys suffering with a lot of anguish over it. Sometimes when they come out it reopens that wound, but it allows you to cleanse it because you’re with other guys who know exactly what you’ve gone through.”

There is a name locator near the 'Wall that Heals' where anyone can come from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. to look up the name of a Vietnam soldier. The three veterans biking to the D.C memorial will head out on Sunday.

Source: Bakersfield News Channel 17
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