WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Wall that Heals, the replica of Washington D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial is set to be showcased in Erie on Memorial Day weekend. Before that popular replica gets here, the original memorial is going through some changes.
These changes only happen when one of the Vietnam veterans who are designated as missing is finally found. We show you what the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund does to honor their homecoming.
For one day, each year when the weather is just right, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Washington D.C. national mall goes through some small, yet significant changes.
“When we built the wall in 1982 there were thousands that were still missing,” said Tim Tetz, the director of outreach for VVMF. “We didn’t know what happened to them. Their whereabouts were unknown. So what we decided to do was put their names on the wall with a cross next to them. A cross meant that their whereabouts were unknown when we built the wall in 1982. Of course now 40 years have passed and over those 40 years, we continue to find Americans in the Vietnam war zone and bring them, their remains home.”
This year, they’re changing the status for one Vietnam vet who has finally been found.
“This is Lt. Commander Paul Charvet,” said Tetz.
The VVMF said Charvet was finishing his last week of deployment when his family was notified he was missing. The Department of Defense said Charvet was piloting a plane that disappeared in an area of low cloud cover and fog a kilometer northeast of Hon Me Island. Radio Hanoi Broadcast reported the next day an American aircraft was shot down. Two years ago, Vietnam turned over presumed human remains to the U.S. for testing and through DNA analysis, they identified Charvet.
“His mother was 101 years-old when she learned her son had finally been found and is now buried in Alaska where his family wanted him to be buried,” said Tetz. “So we take his cross and change it into a diamond by super imposing a diamond on top of it.”
Now when family and visitors stop by this wall, that diamond over his cross marks Charvet, is finally home.
The VVMF said about 15-hundred Vietnam veterans are still missing but for 700 of them, their whereabouts are unknown. The DOD said they’re still working to identify the remains of American soldiers killed in Vietnam.
The Wall that Heals, the traveling replica of the Washington D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, will be in Erie, Pennsylvania Friday May 27th through Monday May 30th.