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Continue the healing
Funds needed for local Vietnam War Memorial
The Wall that Heals came to Great Bend in 2024. Since then, a display from the Vietnam War era has been added at the Barton County Historical Society Museum and plans are underway for a Vietnam veterans memorial at Veterans Memorial Park. Donations are being sought.

First came the Wall that Heals. Then the Barton County Historical Society added an exhibit honoring Vietnam War veterans. The next step in recognizing our veterans from that era is the creation of a memorial in Veterans Memorial Park in Great Bend.

Larry Parson headed the Wall That Heals/Great Bend Leadership Committee that brought the traveling, three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to Great Bend in 2023. The massive display, which included an education center, was located within Veterans Memorial Park’s Al Burns Field, where it was open 24 hours a day and free to the public during its brief stay.

Bringing the display to Great Bend was a collaboration of many organizations and volunteers. Cathy Miller, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund program coordinator, later reported Great Bend had just over 13,000 visitors while hosting the Wall that Heals.

Kim Nollette, local volunteer coordinator, echoed those sentiments. “Our community came together and stepped up in such a big way. The people honored and recognized the Vietnam Veterans as they truly deserved! It makes me so proud and touched the lives and helped others heal.”

It didn’t end there. The Barton County Historical Society Museum did not have a Vietnam era exhibit at the time but added one last November. It was called, “The Least We Can Do: Say Thank You and Welcome Home.” 

Six Barton County residents died during the Vietnam War and are honored as part of the exhibit. Several uniforms are also part of the exhibit, including a special embroidered jacket from Ghazi Jahay and a flak vest for another uniform donated by Ken Lebbin, and an M-1 helmet donated by Don Green. Field radio equipment, signal flags, medals and a day-to-day calendar including artwork have been loaned for the exhibit.

Now comes the next stage: A 50-foot long memorial featuring a 12-foot tall helicopter sculpture on top of a wall reaching 6 feet high. It will be placed in Veterans Memorial  Park. The memorial is being made by local artists at B&B Metal Arts of Hoisington.

The public can help with the project because funds for it will come from private donors. “A year ago this week we did The Wall,” Parson said. “From The Wall to the Memorial, we still need donations. We’re about 85% there.” Donations can be mailed to the Great Bend Foundation, P.O. Box 533.

Another way to help with the project is to participate in a Community Cookbook fundraiser. Recipes can be contributed from anyone and contributors are welcome to submit a recipe in memory of a loved one. Kim Nollette is in charge of this and she also invites people to submit old wives tales and home remedies for the book. All recipes need to be typed and submitted to no later than May 31. The cookbooks will be printed and ready to purchase in September. All proceeds go to the Barton County Vietnam Veterans Memorial!

If you are a Vietnam veteran or know one, this is an opportunity to show thanks for their service in a lasting way.