You are currently viewing WATCHERS AT THE WALL: Residents of Blount volunteer to support visitors to the Healing Wall |  News

WATCHERS AT THE WALL: Residents of Blount volunteer to support visitors to the Healing Wall | News

When spring winds blow through the columnar trees that line Knoxville’s Lynnhurst Cemetery in the pre-dawn darkness next weekend, the ghosts of men they’ve never known will keep them company .

For Suzette and John Donovan of Maryville, it is Suzette’s father, Lt. Eugene J. Majure, killed in action on August 18, 1966, while saving the lives of members of his U.S. Army Airborne Platoon. Just 10 months old at the time, Donovan – a former Maryville city planning commissioner and assistant to the president of Maryville College – only knows her father through the stories of family members and fellow military personnel, she recently told the Daily Times.

For Dave Daniels, a former US Navy noncommissioned officer and director of military outreach and transfer recruiting at Maryville College, it was the brothers-in-arms who served in a conflict that was before its time, but whose he feels the duty. bound to nurture and protect, he said.

Both Donovan and Daniels will be among the volunteers at Lynnhurst this week when “The Wall That Heals” – a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, measures 375 feet long and 7 ½ feet tall at its highest point – is displayed from Thursday to April 24. After a ceremony at 10 a.m. on opening day, it will be open for tours 24 hours a day until 2 p.m. on April 24, and the role of the veteran and a veteran’s daughter is to comfort those who might need it.

“I don’t have service in my family that goes back that far, but what I do have is my service time to draw on,” Daniels said. “Although they are two very different times, I have talked to many Vietnam veterans on my daily walk, and sometimes it’s a little easier to talk when you don’t have to talk, if that makes sense. .

“What I mean by that is sometimes we have wordless conversations, but they know I’m there. I will never understand the extent of their service – what they saw and what they endured, because army life for me just wasn’t like that – but there is a respect mutual, because I served.

For Donovan, the wall – The Wall That Heals and the permanent memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as its various iterations both virtual and physical – is a way to connect with the father whose presence in his life is built on the stories others who knew him … including many who found his name on these various walls, she said.

“The healing wall is ¾ the size of Washington’s. Others are very wearable, but this one feels more real, more like an opportunity for healing,” she said. “I went to the virtual wall (a digital recreation of the actual monument) before going to the real one, and found people who left messages for my dad, and a catalog of things that had been left for my dad .

“There was a dog tag…flowers…a green woolen blanket, and I always wondered who left them, but I don’t know. You see these things, and you know people left them for a reason, and now people in East Tennessee can go visit “The Healing Wall” for their own reasons. And because it’s open 24 hours a day, they can go and sit quietly in the middle of the night, if they want.

Although the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorized the use of military force in Vietnam in 1964, the United States first sent Green Berets to the Southeast Asian country in 1960. Until in 1973, when American forces finally withdrew, up to 500 American deaths per week were recorded at the height of the war, with over 500,000 troops deployed there at the height of the war in 1969.

By then, Majure had been dead for three years. When the Donovans and their children finally made the pilgrimage to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to find her name among the more than 58,000 American victims engraved on it, the emotions were overwhelming, she said.

“There’s a lot of emotion there, because when you walk in, the wall is so low, but then you see the climbing of it, and you see all these names,” she said. . “My father enlisted. He wanted to be a special forces officer, but there was also conscription at the time, and there’s so many people on that wall who didn’t ask to go, whose names were just pulled from a hat. And when you see all that’s left of them – dog tags, roses, pieces of poetry, quilts, combat boots with dog tags hanging from them – it’s so overwhelming you don’t even have words for it. .

For Daniels, the camaraderie of the military brotherhood is made even more powerful by these tokens and memories, because as a veteran who served alongside men willing to fight and die together if the need arose, he can only imagine how strained those bonds were in combat.

“When you are there, it is your brothers on your right and on your left. They are all you have,” he said. “At the end of the day, whether you enlist or get drafted, you think about your life expectancy. For me, when I look at those names on the wall, it’s bittersweet, because whatever put those guys there, they did their job, and some of them didn’t come in.

And that is why, he added, he will be volunteering next weekend. At night or under the Tennessee sun; in darkness or in spring storms: He will stand guard, in a sense, because those named on this memorial did so all those years ago.

“It’s impossible to explain what you’re looking at when you’re standing in front of that wall,” he said. “You can talk about it and you can create that image in your mind, but until you actually see it and can feel the carvings on the wall, you don’t know. It just hits differently.

That she and her husband can bring comfort to those whose wounds have not fully healed and whose grief requires closure to see a name on the wall in person is an honor, Donovan said. It’s an honor for her… but also for the father she never knew, killed in a war on the other side of the world. And when she sees others visiting a replica of the monument erected to her memory and that of her military colleagues, being a comforting presence is her way of expressing that honor.

“There’s so much raw emotion that’s there when people stand in front of that wall, and you know they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t feeling something,” she said. “The wall is powerful. It brings people together. »

Steve Wildsmith worked as a writer, editor and freelance journalist for the Daily Times for over two decades. In addition to covering entertainment and occasional news stories, he is also the social media specialist for Maryville College. Contact him at

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