MARION -- A dream that wasn't to be for Edwin Vega has become the spark that will bring The Vietnam Moving Wall to the campus of the Marion Veterans Administration Medical Center.
Vega, a Vietnam vet, dreamed of seeing The Wall in Washington, D.C., to pay homage to friends who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the war, as well as to honor Joseph Grenevicki, the man whose life Vega is credited with saving.
VA employees had worked to make the trip possible, but just hours before he was to leave for Washington, D.C., last summer, Vega fell and broke his leg and hip.
He died just a few weeks later, never realizing his dream of visiting The Wall.
Vega's story inspired VA employees to work to bring the moving wall to Southern Illinois.
"The decision to bring The Vietnam Moving Wall to our Marion campus was sparked by a veteran," said Kevin Harris, Public Affairs Officer for the Marion VAMC. "We believe it is our duty to show deep gratitude to all veterans and their families."
Harris said The Wall will be set up at the Marion campus from May 2-5.
Since its dedication in 1996, The Wall That Heals has been displayed at nearly 600 communities throughout the nation. The exhibit features a three-quarter-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The replica is 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet high at its tallest point.
Bringing the exhibit requires planning and dedication for those involved.
Maria Buehler is one of those who is coordinating the event.
Buehler, a Voluntary Service Officer at the Marion VAMC, said that interest and community support has been enthusiastic.
"It is our hope to partner with community members to make this event a great success," she said. "With the help of community partners, veterans service organizations, VA employees, volunteers, local businesses and others, we are certain that is possible."
The VAMC has put out a call for volunteers.
"Both volunteers and financial donations are necessary for the success of this event," said Buehler.
"If you are interested in partnering through volunteering, we have opportunities for individuals and groups to help fill the various volunteer roles throughout the event and during all visiting hours."
Some of the roles to be filled include greeters, wall guides, volunteer check-in/information assistants, parking lot assistants and shuttle drivers, grief counselors, school group guide, set up crew, and traffic/direct parking assistants.
Buehler said individuals are asked to serve in two-hour increments during the following times: May 2 (4 to 10 p.m.), May 3 (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), May 4 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.), and May 5 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.).
The minimum age for volunteers is 14.
The next community volunteer night to sign up will be March 20 at 6:30 p.m., at the Marion VA Medical Center, second floor recreation hall.
Those wishing to volunteer from the community who cannot attend registration night can call VAMC Voluntary Service at (618) 993-4121.
Large groups wanting to volunteer should have one point of contact.
While the exhibit will be open to the public on all days, May 3 has been designated for school groups.
School groups wishing to attend need to contact Event Coordinator Sam Olson at 618-997-5311 ext. 54868 to schedule their time to visit.
"Bringing The Wall to our community is special," said Harris.
"It is something that everyone should take the time to see. We believe it is our duty to show deep gratitude to this generation of warriors and their families."