The Wall That Heals (TWTH), a Vietnam Veteran Memorial scale replica, is now at Jensen Grove in Blackfoot, Idaho. The event is meant to honor Vietnam Veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice while allowing their surviving loved ones and surviving veterans to heal from their losses within the familiarity of their own community. The monument is open for viewing 24 hours a day until Sunday, Sept. 19 when it will be closing at 2 p.m. and leaving Idaho. Admission is free and parking and shuttles are readily available for everyone. Special veteran parking is also available.
TWTH project was initiated by Fred Saunders, a retired Air Force Veteran and his wife Penny Saunders. During the Vietnam conflict, Fred’s unit refueled planes flying in and out of Vietnam combat zones and was stationed throughout Southeast Asia. His time in service was grueling but also imbued him with gratitude towards his fellow veterans. As for Penny, she too learned similar lessons as she supported Fred’s career. Sometimes this meant moving to Japan with their first newborn or driving across the U.S. by herself with five children and an assortment of pets. After Fred’s time in the service ended, the Saunders family moved back to Idaho but continued to find ways to serve their community and honor our veterans.
Fred and Penny first came across TWTH a few decades ago while they were spending time in Quartzsite, Ariz. Their experience led them to visit the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. They were astonished to realize that TWTH was an exact scale replica and both experiences left a meaningful impression on them. Then in 2019, Fred and Penny had to visit Fort Sam Houston Cemetery to bury a close Army friend. While they were there, they unexpectedly got to experience TWTH yet again. At that point they knew they had to find a way to bring the experience home to Idaho.
The couple put together all the needed paperwork for the project – it included gathering support from local, state, and congressional leadership. However, one of their first major challenges was securing adequate funding. Penny recalls,
“I took (donation) cans to every place, and they didn’t believe that we wanted to get the wall because you know … we were really naïve … but we really wanted the wall to come because we’re amazed every time we see it, it’s just amazing.”
It was around the time Fred and Penny were trying to collect donations that Cindy Reese and Scott Reese, the former mayor of Blackfoot, heard about what they were trying to accomplish. They offered to help and quickly assembled a committee of dedicated talent, supportive city resources and leadership, and gracious community sponsors like Bingham Memorial Hospital, Idaho Central Credit Union, Alsco and Bank of Idaho among many others.
Even then, the event ran into COVID-19 related obstacles and had to be postponed in 2020 but Fred explains why it has been important to persevere with the project in 2021,
“I’m hoping that when this wall gets here, enough veterans know about it that it helps them get settled down with their PTSD … I’m hoping that the folks that come and visit go away with the knowledge of what really happened over there, and I hope the veterans that come get healed.”
Everyone is invited so don’t miss this opportunity to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica in person and learn more about our fallen warriors.
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Today’s hero spotlight
In remembrance of Cpl. Sheldon Dale Hoskins, we are sharing a few details about his life and service to our country. Sheldon and his twin sister were born in Blackfoot, Idaho in 1948. Sheldon graduated from Snake River High School in 1966. After being the state wrestling champion in high school, he was awarded a four year scholarship to Weber State College in Ogden, Utah but Sheldon opted to join the Marines instead. He had been stationed in the Philippines for five months when his married brother, who was also in the military at the time, received Vietnam orders. Sheldon volunteered to take his brother’s place and was sent to Vietnam where he served as a squad leader in Quang Nam province.
One day in October of 1948, Sheldon found himself in a firefight alongside the other men in his platoon. During the firefight, Sheldon found a favorable position where he could engage the enemy and mostly remain behind adequate cover. However, about 20 meters from his location he spotted a wounded comrade. Sheldon decided to maneuver his way toward the wounded soldier in order to move him to a safer location and provide first aid. However, he had to go through fire swept terrain in order to reach him. This meant he had to use suppressive fire and likely expand all his ammunition either before he reached the wounded soldier or before they both reached relative safety again. Despite the terrible odds, he couldn’t watch his comrade continue to bleed out in front of him. He felt there was a chance he could save him and he had to take it. Up until that point in Sheldon’s short life, there had been plenty of times where he had been able to sacrifice his own best interest for the benefit of others.
Unfortunately, on Oct. 7, 1968, Sheldon was killed by enemy fire as he attempted to reload his weapon. He was 20 years old when he sacrificed of himself for the last time. You can find his name on panel 41W, line 24 when The Wall That Heals visits Blackfoot, Idaho this fall.
Learn more about Cpl. Sheldon Dale Hoskins or leave him a remembrance message on his VVMF page.
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The Wall That Heals