Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica to visit Farmington

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
A visitor to The Wall That Heals makes a rubbing of a name from the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in this undated photo.

FARMINGTON — A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will visit Farmington this week, providing space for veterans of the war to heal and space for community members to recognize military service members, an organizer of the event said.

The Wall That Heals will be displayed from Sept. 9 to Sept. 12 at the San Juan College athletic fields.

It is a three-quarter scale replica created by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit organization that built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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Lillian Clopine, chair of the local committee arranging the visit, said the display serves as a teaching tool as well as providing space to help heal Vietnam War-era veterans, many of whom still cope with the war experience and the challenges they faced when returning home to the United States.

"The Vietnam War was a divisive war. They weren't treated well when they came home. It was difficult to be in the war then difficult to come home," Clopine said.

The mobile education center, which is another component of The Wall That Heals, provides additional information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the collection of items left at The Wall in Washington, D.C.

The replica is 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet high at its tallest point, according to the memorial fund's website.

It is constructed of Avonite, a synthetic granite, and lists the names of 58,279 servicemen and servicewomen who died in Vietnam. Like the wall in the nation's capital, visitors can do name rubbings of individual service member's names.

"This mobile replica really is about taking the names home to communities large and small. To allow people to have that same kind of healing experience, to come and show their respect, to remember those 58,000 whose names are on the wall as well as the 2.7 million Vietnam veterans who served, who returned home," Jim Knotts, the memorial fund's president and CEO, said in a video.

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The effort to bring the replica to Farmington began after Clopine read a magazine article two years ago about it visiting a small town in Missouri.

"I thought, why can't we do that here for our community?" Clopine said.

She proposed the visit as a community service project for the Piñon Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church, where she attends, then applied to the memorial fund in May 2020.

She received word in November 2020 that Farmington was selected to host the wall. Since then she has been part of a nine-member committee working with local businesses and organizations overseeing the visit.

The Wall That Heals is a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that has been displayed in nearly 700 communities in the United States since its debut in 1996.

"We don't want to think of it as a Farmington event. We want to think of it as more of a Four Corners event," Clopine said.

The replica, along with a mobile education center, will arrive in Farmington the afternoon of Sept. 8.

Prior to Farmington, the wall visited Brighton, Colorado. As part of its travel south on Sept. 8, the semitrailer carrying the wall will depart the La Plata County Fairgrounds in Durango at 2 p.m.

Those who are interested in escorting the semitrailer from Durango to Farmington need to be at the fairgrounds at 1 p.m., Clopine explained. 

When the procession arrives in Farmington, it will go onto Piñon Hills Boulevard to San Juan College.

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Volunteers will set up the wall at the athletic fields, then it will open to the public at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 9 and remain open for 24 hours each day until closing at 2 p.m. on Sept. 12.

There will be an honor ceremony at 6 p.m. on Sept. 9 with the Kirtland Air Force Base Honor Guard and a flyover.

A Navajo blessing ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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