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Traveling KY Vietnam Wall coming to Owensboro; visit can be part of ‘healing process’ for vets

June 30, 2021 | 12:09 am

Updated June 30, 2021 | 10:48 am

Vietnam Wall

The Traveling Kentucky Vietnam Wall will be stationed on the Owensboro Convention Center this weekend, giving the community a chance to pay tribute to 1,108 Kentuckians who served in the Vietnam War. There will be a ceremony at 5 p.m. to welcome the wall and kick off Friday After 5, and it will remain on the lawn through Sunday.

Glenn Family Services is sponsoring the event to bring the wall to Owensboro.

According to Jack Mattingly, president of the Kentucky State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the traveling wall was built three years ago. It was originally created for the many Kentucky veterans, family members and friends who couldn’t make the trip to Washington, D.C., to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 

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“We felt like there were a lot of parents and family members not able to travel to D.C. and do a rubbing of the names,” Mattingly said. “My wife and I decided to create a traveling memorial and bring the wall to them.” 

The last time Mattingly brought the Traveling Kentucky Vietnam Wall to Owensboro was in 2018, which produced “tremendous turnout,” he said. 

Mattingly said visiting the wall is a solemn, emotional occasion for most people — especially for veterans. Mattingly himself went 30-35 years without telling people he went to Vietnam. He said part of that stemmed from a lack of welcoming veterans received upon arriving home from Vietnam. 

“We didn’t start getting welcomed back until 10 years ago,” he said. 

After decades of burying his experience overseas, Mattingly said his wife convinced him to visit a traveling wall that had been erected in London, Ky. 

“I broke,” he said. 

Though visiting the wall was a difficult experience, it was a necessary one. Mattingly said he now views his efforts in bringing the traveling wall to others as a form of therapy. 

“This is part of my PTSD survival,” he said. “The last time I was in Owensboro, there was a guy on a bicycle riding near the wall. He would come close to it, but he wouldn’t come up to it. I went up to him. It turned out he was a homeless Vietnam veteran. I took him to see the wall up close. He broke, and I broke. That’s part of the healing process.”

June 30, 2021 | 12:09 am

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