Fifty-eight thousand names will come to New Iberia bearing a memory.
They are emblazoned on the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica, which opens to the public Sept. 29 at Acadiana Regional Airport.
The wall will be positioned across from the airport’s main office. Kenny Pellerin, manager of Evangeline Funeral home, helped to bring the replica to New Iberia. His funeral home is part of Dignity Memorial, which has about 1,800 funeral homes and built the wall in 1990. Since then it has been touring the country.
“It’s for people who don’t have the chance to see it in Washington, D.C., so they can see it here,” Pellerin said.
“There are so many Vietnam veterans here in New Iberia. We see this as a way to give back to them and the community, Pellerin said.
The wall is 24 feet long and 8 feet tall. It is free to view and will be open to the public 24 hours a day.
An opening ceremony will be held at 6 p.m Thursday, though the wall will be viewable all day.
“There will be remarks by veterans. We will have full military honors with placing of wreaths for all six branches of the service. We will have a 21-gun salute, taps — all followed by a ‘missing man’ formation flyover,” Pellerin said.
Fred Wesley, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, who served in Vietnam, said he was excited about its arrival.
“It took them a long time to get here,” Wesley said. “This war left a lot of us veterans with scars, but perhaps the wall being here on this occasion will bring some closure.”
When he goes to see the wall, Wesley said, there is one name in particular he’ll be looking for: Perry Thompson.
“He’s a native New Iberian that got killed in the Vietnam War,” Wesley said.