A replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. is coming to Baldwin County in May. The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter-scale monument and mobile education center, will be in Robertsdale from May 9 to May 12.

The wall bears the names of the 58,281 Americans who were killed in the Vietnam War, including the 175 casualties from Mobile and Baldwin Counties. The wall also serves as a way to honor the more than three million who served in the military during the war.

Retired Marine Gerry Garcia, the post commander for American Legion Post 199 in Fairhope, fought through the tears to explain to 1819 News how important this monument is to those who served.

“It allows people the chance to have a little bit of closure, a little bit of healing that's been missing from their lives,” Garcia said. “After all this time, it’s very sad.”

Many Vietnam troops felt unappreciated and hated when they returned home from the war. The reaction from people drove them into isolation and many suffered for years with mental anguish and nowhere to go. That’s why Garcia said honoring those who served in Vietnam is particularly important.

“You came home to an ungrateful nation and it was a very traumatic time for military personnel,”  said Garcia.

“They wanted to bury the memory, how they were treated, how they felt,” Garcia continued. “Even though they lost fellow veterans, fellow service members in the conflict, it was like a national embarrassment for them even though it wasn’t.”

“To come back, you know, as they did, you it put additional mental and emotional damage in their brains,” he added. “I mean, think about it. We're exposed to combat, tragic events, losing bodies, and then you come home and the mental stress and the rest continue at home. Who the hell wants to go in and hang out and deal with that? No one.”

Garcia said The Wall That Heals is called that for a reason.

“You will get emotional,” he said. “You will get angry. You will have to experience all those healing sensations that are necessary to heal the trauma that they have to endure.”

Several members of Post 199 are eager to see The Wall That Heals in person. Even those who served during other conflicts and wars appreciate the Vietnam vets for what they’ve experienced.

“After Afghanistan and Iraq, we were able to understand the level of trauma that's inflicted upon people serving in active conflicts,” Garcia explained. “You don't come back the same. You do not. A lot of the scars, although they may not be in your flesh or your body, they are deeply emotional scars that take time to heal, that take support to heal, that take understanding to heal.”

Garcia said he would visit the wall, and he encouraged other veterans to begin their healing process.

“To us, the wall is a significant piece of healing,” he said. “It can be an instrument of healing and the fact that it’s going around the United States enables other people across the country to go in and be able to engage. It enables the healing process of our veterans, supporting them when they need it and it helps their families.”

The 375-foot long wall will be at the Baldwin County Coliseum at 19477 Fairground Road, in Robertsdale. The Wall That Heals will be open 24 hours a day and is free to attend.

For more information on American Legion Post 199 in Fairhope, Garcia invites folks to stop by the canteen on site, which includes a Tiki bar and a beautiful waterfront.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning or become a member to gain access to exclusive content and 1819 News merch.