The Wall That Heals
September 28th - October 1st 2023
On a rainy, dreary day an amazing event was held! Those that served in combat don't get a pass because of rain so there we were - rain or shine and rain it did! Commissioner James Hendon did a wonderful job as the MC and spokesperson. His passion and dynamic spirit serves him and the public so well as he managed the program and introduced guest speakers! Despite the weather challenges, there was ample attendance with many Vietnam veterans, active duty, Gold Star, dignitaries and veterans advocates like me. Mayor Adams graced us with his appearance and comments to unite us as a city and nation of immigrants who proudly served our country. (Not getting political; just sharing commentary.) John Rowan, former VVA National President, also spoke with his purpose and passion. I was very pleased to see our VVA#126 Chapter members in attendance, including our Korean Chapter members too; great! Among the many noteworthy speakers was our own Chapter President, Fred Gasior who spoke well and very succinct. Chapter member and close friend, Michelle DellaFave, once again sang the National Anthem with such spirit and incredible talent! The Wreath presentation was very impressive and I was glad to see our chapter was among those represented!
"The Wall That Heals" is just overwhelming and amazing... the 58,000+ names inscribed is chilling... bittersweet to consider all these young men/women who lost their lives in the name of freedom. Vicki Miano, Gold Star Sister, read letters home from her brother, Stephen W. Pickett, just 20 years old, who was among those sad casualties. Its been said times over that a service member writes a 'blank check' payable with his/her life... and proudly, bravely, strongly defends our nation and others in this spirit.
God Bless our veterans who survived and returned back home; injured and suffering with a myriad of issues - physical and/or emotional. Unknown back then but now a present day stark reality - the horrors of Agent Orange and other lethal toxins and burn pits; unfathomable and awful.
Welcome home, Vietnam veterans; welcome home all veterans! We will never forget you - always remember your service as we honor you and help you in ways possible now and always!
Loving wishes and forever thanks,
Marleen "MOLLY" Levi, a proud veterans' advocate
Five Days At The Wall
Day - 1 Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
I went to Flushing Meadow Park in Queens on Wednesday to help assemble the Wall That Heals. There were quite a few volunteers there to help. First, assembling the frame, which is 375 feet long and rises to 7 and a half feet tall at its center, then installing the 140 panels containing the thousands of names, and lastly, the lights. It took all day to put it together. We all stood back and looked in awe at what we had just accomplished. All of us took personal time to reflect on what this wall sadly represents: the names of those men and women whose lives ended in the fight for freedom. If you position yourself close to the center apex of the chevron-shaped wall and look to the right, the center, and then the left, all you see are names. The names of heroes surround you, all 58,281 of them.
Day - 2 - Thursday, September 27th, 2023
Today was the day of the opening ceremony at the wall. It rained on and off all day. The attendance was excellent. Many Vietnam veterans, Gold Star Mothers, elected NYC officials, and many veteran supporters were present. Michelle DellaFave opened the program with the National Anthem. NYC DVS Commissioner James Hendon hosted the ceremony. He spoke with passion and purpose. Our mayor, Eric Adams, commented that many of the names on the wall were not yet American citizens and that we are all descendants of immigrants who came to our country for freedom and a better life. Former VVA National President John Rowan spoke of how Vietnam veterans fought for the benefits and recognition all veterans deserve. VVA Chapter 126 president Fred Gasior gave us a very solemn reminder that there are still 1,582 veterans of the war still missing and unaccounted for. Our VVA chapter was well represented along with our VVA Korean-American Vietnam War Veterans. The program ended with a wreath presentation, a benediction, a rifle salute, and taps. It was a well-done event and very emotional. The event ended at dusk. When the Wall That Heals lights that shine down on the name panels came on, we all stood back and reflected on the meaning of this event.
Day 3 - Friday, September 29th, 2023
Friday, the weather was not with us. It rained hard all day. It was like the weather sent us a reminder of the monsoon rain we veterans lived through in Vietnam. I didn’t go to the wall that day. I don’t think very many people did. But if anyone came to the wall under these dreadful weather conditions, it had to be a Vietnam Veteran or a very devoted family member or friend. If that day was the only day they could visit the Wall and touch their loved ones name they would come regardless of the weather.
Day 4 - Saturday, September 30th, 2023
Saturday was my personal day at the Wall That Heals. I had to do something I couldn’t do when I visited the Wall in DC, as I was too emotional then. I had to find and touch the names of men I served with and knew personally, my departed Nam brothers. Thankfully, there was less than a handful. But, there is one that always stood out: Jimmy Courtney.
In Vietnam, I was assigned to Delta Company. 2nd Battalion. 501st Infantry Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. We called ourselves the Delta Raiders. We were a highly trained unit, often assigned to the most dangerous assignments. Our unit had 2 Medal of Honor and over a dozen Silver Star, Bronze Star, and many Purple Heart medal recipients. The 101st Airborne considered the Delta Raiders the best of the best.
All PFC Jimmy Cortney wanted was to be the best soldier he could be, a Delta Raider. Jimmy was barely 19 years old when he joined the unit. No matter what his duties or assignments were, he always did his very best to get them done and then volunteer for more. Jimmy was always eager to learn. And was always asking if he did things correctly. Jimmy wanted to be accepted. Little did he know that his friendly attitude and willingness to do whatever he was asked to do to be a good soldier made him one of us from day one.
On July 25th, 1969, our platoon was on a search and destroy mission in the jungles of the A Shau Valley. We followed a trail up a hill and decided to stop for a rest and get a quick bite to eat. We were short on drinking water. Jimmy volunteered to fill a number of our canteens with water from a stream we had just crossed. He collected a couple of dozen canteens. Jimmy tied them up with rope and carried them down the steep hill to the stream. Just as he approached the stream in an open area, he was shot several times by an NVA trail follower. When we heard the shots, we went down the hill, eliminated the enemy, and then quickly returned to help Jimmy. Jimmy was severely wounded with multiple chest wounds. No matter what our medic, John Musewicz, did, he could not save him. We held Jimmy in our arms and watched him die. I can’t forget that day. I will never forget that day.
Today, I went to the Wall That Heals and found Jimmy’s name on panel W20, line 43. I did a name-rubbing to keep with me. I know Jimmy is volunteering as he always did to help the angels in heaven. I shouted out his name, “Jimmy Darrell Courtney,” to get his attention. If you remember him and call out his name, he is not dead. He is just in another place
Day 5 - Sunday, October 1st, 2023
On Sunday, the Wall That Heals will be dismantled and sent off to another city. I can’t go to help take it down. It’s not that I can’t go. I don’t want to go. I do not want the Wall That Heals to leave. In the few windy and rainy days it was with us, it has healed many Vietnam War veterans, the families of the departed, friends, and loved ones. Healing can mean many things to many people. Healing can soothe your grief. Healing can bring back fond memories. Healing can give a veteran a sense of pride. Healing can mean never to forget.
Standing at the Wall That Heals, surrounded by the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, is truly a healing experience.
I am sorry to see it leave, although I realize that it can heal many more veterans, their families, and their loved ones wherever it goes.
Good Bye Wall Than Heals.