Healing wall brings education and comfort

Courtesy/Lusk Herald SW2 Larry Ray Owens. Was the first Niobrara County casualty of the Vietnam War. He was the son of Ray and Pearl Owens.

LUSK – The United States recently endured a 35-day federal government shutdown when Congress failed to pass sufficient appropriation bills or continuing resolutions to fund the federal government operations and agencies. One point of disagreement that seemed to divide the nation was the building of a wall for border security. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the shutdown impacted the economy $11 billion with $3 billion that is unrecoverable. Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, refutes the claim and believes that there was no permanent damage to the economy.

While one wall seems to divide a nation, there is another wall that was built with the intention to help close old wounds, not to open them and to educate communities about the war in Vietnam and its impact on our nation and our veterans.

A chance encounter, while Ed and Arlene Rapp were vacationing in Hawaii, is bringing a once in a lifetime opportunity to Lusk. The Vietnam Moving Wall.

The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located in Washington, D.C. It was devised by John Devitt after he attended the 1982 annual commemoration ceremonies celebrated in Washington for Vietnam veterans. He felt that he needed to share his experience with those who did not have the opportunity to go to Washington. Devitt and other Vietnam veterans volunteered to build the Wall. It went on display for the first time in Tyler, Texas, in October 1984.

Two structures of The Moving Wall now travel the USA from April through November. One travels east of the Mississippi, and one travels west. A group called the Vietnam Combat Veterans LTD (VCV) is charged with the transfer of the wall from site to site. 

The Rapps met a husband and wife team that belong to the VCN and an idea was born to bring the monument to Lusk. A sponsor was required to schedule the visit and must commit to make local arrangements. The cost to bring the wall here amounted to $5, 500 and that doesn’t include the wooden foundation that needs to be built and the lodging and meals for the VCN members. At least 10 local volunteers will be needed to assist with the set-up and tear-down. 

The wall must be lighted during night-time hours and manned 24 hours a day. In addition to the Rapps, Lusk Elks Lodge #1797 and the Lusk Does Drove # 64 are also assisting with sponsorship.

SW2 Larry Ray Owens was 23 and Niobrara’s first fatality of the Vietnam war. He died while on special assignment at Red Beach, DaNang. He was in the DaNang Hospital from September 13-24, and then transferred to Tachikowa Air Force Base Hospital, where he died on October 8, 1969. He began his naval career at the Recruit Training Center at San Diego, Calif., on December 30, 1965, and was selected in March 1966 as the Outstanding Recruit in his company.

He was authorized to wear the Navy Commendation Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal and planned to re-enlist on October 1, 1969. His name is engraved on the wall.

Ed Rapp would love to have anyone that would like to volunteer or make donations of time or money for this meaningful event to contact him. He is also searching for someone to lend an RV for the event in case of inclement weather and comfort for those volunteering.

The Vietnam Moving Wall will be on display at the Niobrara County High School baseball field July 11, 12, 13 and 14. These dates were specifically chosen to coincide with the Legend of Rawhide Pageant and allow more people the opportunity to view the wall. The Moving Wall will be open to the public, 24 hours a day, from setup to tear down. While one wall brings division, this wall intends to bring healing, comfort and education.

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