A mission far from the battlefield


Volunteers assemble The Wall That Heals


PLYMOUTH, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The Vietnam War is remembered as a long, costly and divisive conflict that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans. A somber image of that sacrifice is now on display in Luzerne County. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller was there during the day Wednesday as volunteers assembled The Wall That Heals.

“All right guys, in. Easy, easy.” It’s the sounds of a labor of love of country, patriotism, and remembrance that played out for hours on Huber Field at Wyoming Valley West High School. Volunteers assembled the three-quarter sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall called The Wall That Heals.

The task is extremely personal for some of these volunteers.

“This is my dad’s panel,” said David Coates as the Mountain Top man hoisted panel number E22. Mr. Coates was just six years old when his 29-year-old father, Marine Captain Sterling K. Coates, was killed in 1967 during a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam.

“Dad was a native so he has come home,” Mr. Coates said.

Capt. Coates was one of seven servicemen from Plymouth who gave all during Vietnam and one of 75 total from Luzerne County. That’s besides the number of young men from the county who made it home alive.

“If you’re a combat vet, guess what? You might leave the war but the war never leaves you. It’s a fact,” said Vietnam Vet Clyde Peters who is the manager of Plymouth VFW Post 1425. The two-time Vietnam War Purple Heart recipient spearheaded the effort to bring The Wall That Heals to northeastern Pennsylvania.

Mr. Peters’ nephew, David Lee, was among the more than 58,000 Americans who laid down their lives during Vietnam. Mr. Peters hopes the wall does what it’s intended to do for veterans and their families.

“So maybe it might help them heal somewhat. Sometimes you can never heal,” Mr. Peters said.

Acquiring The Wall That Heals for five days comes with a price of $10,000. But Mr. Peters says that’s nothing compared to the value it provides the community. It’s an opportunity to teach that freedom isn’t free. It’s why Bryan Dodson brought his two young children to be part of this day.

“Pride, patriotism. Those are all values that I think are we’re losing out on a lot and so I want to make sure that even from a little age they’re learning these things,” Mr. Dodson said.

“And you start realizing that every one of these families lost a family member,” said assembly volunteer Kendal Hancock. Names that fill 70 panels when even one panel is too many. Vietnam Veteran and assembly volunteer Charlie Steinhauer added, “A lot of them didn’t come back so it’s an honor to do this.”

The Wall That Heals will remain open to the public 24/7 through Sunday afternoon, September 8, at 3 p.m. on the campus of Wyoming Valley West High School.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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