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The Wall That Heals is a smaller scale replica of the memorial wall in Washington, D.C. The Wall That Heals will be open to the Huntsville community on Thursday and WAAY 31 is a proud sponsor of the event. On Tuesday, the wall was taken to John Hunt Park where it will be on display.
Dozens of volunteers from WAAY 31 and Intuitive Research and Technology spent time building the frame of the wall on Wednesday, which is 375 feet long. It's a smaller scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.
After the frame was built, the pieces of the wall with the names of the fallen were placed with four volunteer hands on each piece.
"It's not so much about how people died whose names are on the wall, but it's about how they lived," said local veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient, Retired Lieutenant Colonel James 'Mike' Sprayberry.
Sprayberry was a part of the American Legion's Patriot Guard Riders and police escort that drove The Wall That Heals into John Hunt Park. Sprayberry is also a Medal of Honor recipient, awarded for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.
"It was basically a bad day," explained Sprayberry.
He led and organized a rescue operation that lasted more than 7 hours and saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers from enemy attacks.
"If you have one of those days, or nights in this case and you see everyone do exactly what you're supposed to do, and do it well, that stays with you a long time. And everybody did. We still have three guys missing," said Sprayberry.
President Richard Nixon gave Sprayberry the Medal of Honor. Sprayberry has seen the memorial wall in Washington, D.C. but he says having the replica wall brought to his home has a new meaning.
"There's just certain emotions that comes with the territory of being a Vietnam Veteran that when you walk by those names and you find that special name that you're looking for...We miss them, we miss them all and that's our way of paying tribute," explained Sprayberry.
A total of three Medal of Honor recipients were part of the wall escort to John Hunt Park. The wall is open to the public Thursday through Sunday and it is free to visit.
Schools across Northern Alabama began incorporating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial into their curriculum in anticipation of the wall coming to town. More than 1,000 students were scheduled to visit the wall Thursday, but some students were left disappointed when the rain came down on their plans.
"We had built into this weeks schedule was a series of about 1200 students that were gonna be coming through today and tomorrow. So all of today's field trips, unfortunately, have been cancelled," said Megan Nivens the volunteer communication director.
Nivens said 600 students were not able to visit, but they have been rescheduled to visit on Friday with the other group. She said the wall will remain open rain or shine, unless severe weather comes back to the area. If that happens, the wall could be closed temporarily for safety. Nivens said the wall is secure though and will stay up.
"It is very sturdy and very heavy. And it's bolted into the ground so the wall is not going anywhere."