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The Wall - No, not that one

The Perryville Wall

I am a veteran.  I spent four years in the US Air Force.  I loved my time in, and I hated my time in — pretty much the feelings of many people who serve their country. Although I did not spend time on a battlefield, I did have my Forrest Gump moment while stationed at Dover Air Force Base.  When the US Marine base was bombed in Lebanon, hundreds of bodies were sent to Dover Air Force Base. Having spent three years on a casualty collection team, I was put to duty assisting the processing. It was a terrible task, but it taught me a great life lesson — people do really give their lives protecting the United States of America.

I’m not a political person, and I’m certainly not a Republican or a Democrat.  I’m stuck in the middle, actually, but I do believe we are the only truly free country on earth.  As long as that does not change, I’m fine with all the fighting and complaining going on in Washington.  To me, it’s when they aren’t fighting when we all should be terrified.

I’m not afraid to admit I am a fan of the flag and our country.  I’ve seen a lot of this world, and I’ve witnessed a lot of evil. In my mind, there is nothing like the US anywhere else on this planet.  So yes, it’s difficult for me to watch people burn the flag, but I believe if that’s what you want to do— you are free to do it. Many people have given their lives to ensure you can burn that flag.  I guess the flag stands for many things to many people— isn’t that the point?

I like veterans.  They are the one group of people who are not trying to shove their views down your throat.  They are all colors, all religions, and all political persuasions with one single thing in common— they served their county.

So yes, it’s difficult for me to watch people burn the flag, but I believe if that’s what you want to do— you are free to do it.

When Brent Buerck, the city administrator of Perryville, contacted me about doing a feature story on the new war memorial they were building, I was taken back a bit.  He told me they were building a full-sized Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall exactly like the one on the mall in DC. I visited the Wall in DC years ago, so I understood what he was saying.  It is a wonderful yet sad thing to experience. To have an exact replica in the 573 would be a great thing for the area. Our hats and hearts go out to all the people who pulled this off. It is simply amazing.

This all started in 1968 when Jim Eddleman made a promise to himself in Vietnam that if he made it out alive, he would find a way to honor his friends who didn’t.

In 2016, real plans started coming together. After meeting with officials in Washington, D.C., and gaining the support of Robinson Construction, the campus layout of Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial was finalized. The memorial was no longer a dream— it was quickly becoming a reality.

Today, there stands a full-sized replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, officially known as America’s Wall.  The wall is part of the new Missouri National Veterans Memorial site with a welcome center and soon a full-blown war museum— super impressive.

While on a visit to see the finished wall I met an interesting guy.  Meet David Casey

I first heard about Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial during the “Wall2Wall Ride” in September 2017. Then I attended the “Mark of Remembrance” in May 2017 and had the honor of meeting Jim Eddleman.

I enlisted in the Army in August 1966, and upon completion of Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Leonard Wood in February 1967, I was sent to Thailand.

Three years after my service obligation, I re-entered in the military. Eventually, I retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant with over twenty-six years of service.

Nearing retirement age, I decided to purchase a motorcycle, and I soon made my first funeral escort with the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR). I was so taken with the professionalism and patriotism shown by the PGR to veterans, first responders, and their families that I joined the organization.  I later joined the American Legion and the American Legion Riders (ALR). The two organizations stand flag lines at funeral homes to support and honor the fallen veterans and their families, provide funeral motorcycle escorts for such veterans, raise money for veterans issues, and bring awareness to veterans causes.

In 2016, friends of mine encouraged me to participate in the “Run for the Wall” (RFTW), a ten-day motorcycle ride that starts in Ontario, CA, where three groups of Riders take different routes across the lower half of the US, and re-join to visit the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

Along the route, the RFTW stops at memorials, veterans’ hospitals, and schools to raise awareness of the return of our POWs/MIAs from all past wars.  We uphold the RFTW Mission Statement: To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for the accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the military of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.  Participants range from eight to eighty and include fathers, mothers, and other family members, veterans from all past conflicts, current active duty military, and friends. Everyone is welcome, veterans and non-veterans alike. I was so taken by the journey that I will be returning to California for my fourth RFTW this year.

I have since tried to join with other veterans and veterans’ organizations to ensure that service members no longer return home to be treated like those who returned from Vietnam. We stand for and honor our veterans at funerals, raise funds to aid veterans, and help bring awareness to the plight of veterans.

America’s Wall is available for viewing 24/7 and 100% free to all.  The Welcome Center is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call ahead for holiday and weekend hours.

1172 Veterans Memorial Parkway, Perryville, MO 63775


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