Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica in Elgin this week

If you've never had a chance to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the nation's capital, you can visit a half-scale, 250-foot replica this week in Elgin.

“The Wall That Heals” will be open Thursday to Sunday at Civic Center Plaza, 150 Dexter Court, between city hall and the Hemmens Cultural Center in downtown Elgin.

It includes the names of more than 58,200 veterans who died in the Vietnam War, various items and photos left by visitors at the memorial in Washington, D.C., and a map of Vietnam with a timeline of the war.

The traveling exhibit, a project of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, this year will travel to 29 sites across the country, said site manager Brenda Dobek. She and husband Bob have crisscrossed the country for the last 3½ years, bringing the memorial to cities big and small.

“This gives (veterans) the chance to be welcomed home, for those who didn't get that honor,” Brenda Dobek said. “This pays homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

“The Wall That Heals” is a component of “The Big Read,” a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Gail Borden Public Library was awarded a $16,000 grant for the program, which features the novel “The Things They Carried” by Tim O'Brien, plus photo exhibits, films, speakers series and more at the library through Nov. 11, said project director Miriam Lytle, the library's division chief of community services and program development.

This is the library's first “Big Read” grant. “We're so excited about it. The enthusiasm has just been overwhelming,” she said.

“The Wall” arrived Tuesday with an escort from the Elgin police and fire departments, plus motorcycle riders from Warrior Watch Riders, Patriot Guard Riders, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and others.

Students from several local schools stood along the route to welcome “The Wall.”

“It was pretty cool,” said Dietrich Versaw, 14, a student at St. John's Lutheran School in Elgin.

“I think that it's profound, powerful, and it's great that these guys are finally getting the recognition that they deserve,” said Sara Sabo, St. John's school board president.

“The Wall” will be set up today. An opening ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday. A ceremony and candlelight vigil honoring prisoners of war and those missing in action will take place at 7 p.m. Friday. The exhibit made a stop in Bensenville earlier this year, and will be headed to Oregon next, Dobek said.

Ÿ Daily Herald photographer Brian Hill contributed to this story.

  “The Wall That Heals” travels along Division Street past St. John’s Lutheran School Tuesday in Elgin. Brian Hill/
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