Scruggs started fundraising and lobbying for the wall with $2,800 of his own money. It was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982 and has the names of 58,282 soldiers who died in combat inscribed on it. Scruggs and co-writer Joel L. Swerdlow later wrote about his efforts in the book “To Heal a Nation.”
A decade later, Scruggs’ group decided to continue the mission by funding a traveling version of the wall, as an outreach for veterans who can not financially or emotionally make the trip to see the memorial. The Wall that Heals began to travel on Veteran’s Day in 1996. Two years later, an educational museum was added to the display.
For local veterans, the event will be more than festive.
“This is a very special piece of our history that needs to be shared,” said Bill Haase, HOF senior vice president and president of the Cooperstown Veterans Club. “This is not just a bunch of names on a wall. Each one of those people gave up everything they had to serve our country.”
Haase served in Vietnam in the 7th Marine Division. He said his unit was one of the first to fight in the war, serving in Operation Star Lite, and that he has many friends whose names are on the wall.
“It took me a long time to go (to Washington to see the memorial), and since then I have been back several times. The wall has a special meaning to me. Being in on the planning process has been very gratifying to me,” he said.
The display will be open 24 hours a day to allow maximum access, from Friday morning until it is taken down in the morning on Tuesday, May 28. According to the group’s website, one reason for the traveling wall and the open access is, “the traveling exhibit also allows the many thousands of veterans who have been unable to cope with the prospect of ‘facing The Wall’ to find the strength and courage to do so within their own communities.”