By Art Giberson
Wall South is the only permanent Vietnam Veterans Memorial outside of the nation's capital--to list the names of all 58,217 Americans killed or missing in Southeast Asia.
Wall South, marked the conclusion of a five-year struggle by Pensacola area Vietnam veterans to construct a memorial in honor of the men and women who fought and died in America's most controversial and longest armed conflict. But for those Pensacolians most responsible for bringing Veterans Park to Pensacola--Vietnam Veterans of Northwest Florida--the completion of the park, like the Vietnam War itself, continues to be a lingering skirmish.
In exchange for the five-and-one-half acre site overlooking Pensacola Bay, on which Wall South is located, Vietnam Veterans of Northwest Florida (VVNF) signed an agreement with the city of Pensacola making the Wall South Foundation--the fund raising arm of VVNF--fully responsible for upkeep and maintenance of Veterans Park which includes a World War I Memorial (relocated to the park from downtown Pensacola), a Vietnam-era HU-1M Huey helicopter, and all future memorials which may be added to the park.
With more than 250,000 people, including Vice Presidents Dan Quayle and Al Gore, having visited Wall South since its dedication, Veterans Park/Wall South has become a beautiful, yet somber, tourist attraction for the Florida Panhandle. and while the park is technically city property, its maintenance and upkeep are the responsibility of the Wall South Foundation and Vietnam Veterans of Northwest Florida. A responsibly which requires continuing fund raising projects, the latest being the publication of WALL SOUTH (Heritage House Publishing), a hard cover, 128-page pictorial history of the park's construction.
Not one dime of taxpayer money is used for maintenance and upkeep of Veterans Park and Wall South. Every penny spent comes from donations--most of it raised by the very people responsible for building the park in the first place-- Pensacola area Vietnam veterans.
In addition to monetary donations for park and Wall maintenance by Vietnam veterans, most of the work required to maintain the park--cutting grass and hedges, pulling weeds, planting flowers, etc.,--is done by volunteers, many of whom have varying degrees of war related disabilities. Besides the labor intensive chores, there is a constant need for volunteers to help visitors locate a name on the Wall and to collect and catalog the many artifacts left there. And that, the VVNF members say, is how it should be. As the slogan engraved at the base of the flag pole of Veterans Park proclaims, (we were) "Together Then. Together Again."
Copies of WALL SOUTH are available for $24.95, plus $4.00 shipping. Send check or money order to Wall South Foundation, 2365 Reva Circle, Pensacola, FL 32526-1419.