The wall made its first stop of 2023 at the Madonna Meadows last weekend
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — The “Wall That Heals” made its way to the Madonna Meadows in San Luis Obispo last weekend as the wall’s first stop on its 2023 tour.
From March 16-19, the wall displayed the names of 58,281 men and women who lost their lives serving their country in the Vietnam War. The wall stands as a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The wall was last at the Madonna Meadows five years ago and the location is the first ever where the wall has returned for a second visit.
SLO County Veteran Services Officer Morgan Boyd told Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News the county was approached to host the wall again about 18 months ago. After completing the vigorous application process, the county was given the green light in December 2022 to host the wall.
“There’s a lot of things that we had to pull together quickly and we were able to do that with the support of the community,” said Boyd, who hosts the event alongside the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum.
There were over 60 sponsors for the wall, including the SLO County Board of Supervisors, Madonna Inn, and the Legacy Wellness Center located in Nipomo. On Tuesday, March 14, the wall was escorted from Camp Roberts in San Miguel to the Madonna Inn. Despite the wet weather, over 100 people showed up to escort the wall.
“To them they are escorting their fallen brothers on the wall, so it is like a memorial service for them,” said Boyd, who passed out special momentos to those who participated in the transport.
The wet weather created a muddy setting for the wall after set-up. It was common to overhear veterans who served in Vietnam to crack a few jokes saying, “looks like they brought the Vietnam mud along with it.”
Wednesday, March 29, marks the 50th anniversary of the removal of American combat troops from Vietnam. Templeton resident Rodney Dykhouse served as an Army helicopter pilot flying Hueys from 1970 to 1971, and came to see the wall at Madonna Meadows.
“[It] tugs at the heart strings — [the] first time in Washington I cried my eyes out,” said Dykhouse of seeing the wall again and of his first time seeing the original in Washington, D.C.
The “Wall that Heals” made its debut in 1996. It stands 375 feet long and 7.5 feet high. In its 27 years of touring, the wall has been on display in more than 700 U.S. communities, according to vvmf.org.
Like many veterans who were visiting the wall, Dykhouse had a list of people to find and visit on the wall. He was looking for his roommate from flight school, a high school classmate, a neighbor, and some men from his company that were killed in Vietnam.
“These guys were good young men. They died doing what their country asked them to do,” said Dykhouse while he searched the wall.
Volunteers and a resource center at the wall in Madonna were crucial for those finding names on the wall. Photos and remembrances of each service member on the wall can be found on vvmf.org/wall-of-faces as well as their exact location on the wall.
The Vietnam War is most commonly and briefly described as a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia with the purpose of preventing the spread of communism. But the war and its purpose were strongly debated within the U.S.
“The American government screwed it up,” said Dykhouse, who went on to tell us what he wished people knew about the Vietnam War. “They never went in there with a plan to win. They went in there with a plan to try to neutralize the North and hopefully give the South enough time to grow up and take care of themselves, but that’s not the way to win a war.”
Dykhouse is the third generation of his family to serve in the U.S. military. His grandfather served in the trenches of World War I, his father was a World War II veteran who went across the Omaha Beach during the Battle of the Bulge, and then one of his sons served as an Airborne Ranger.
“We have kept America free for four generations,” said Dykhouse, who added that made him feel proud of their services.
Boyd was impressed at the community’s support of the wall coming back to San Luis Obispo County.
The SLO County Veterans Resource Center connects veterans to their accredited benefits. Last year, Boyd’s office was able to bring in $9.668 million to local veterans and are responsible for over 800 million annually — all with a nine-person team.
“We pride ourselves in being efficient and good at helping the veterans navigate their benefits,” added Boyd.
Veterans can find more information on the County’s Veteran’s Services here slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/Veterans-Services.aspx
Feature Photo Caption: (From left) Mike Madrid, Ron Mullisen, John Couch, Wayne Rice, Rob Kinnear, Rod Dykhouse and George Marrett pose in front of the “Wall That Heals” at Madonna Meadows in San Luis Obispo. The wall, displaying the names of those who died in the Vietnam War, began its 2023 tour in San Luis Obispo. Photos by Camille DeVaul/PRP