“I’m going to ask you to close your eyes,” Mayor Bob Hopewell said. “Think of something that means freedom to you. That thing, that opportunity is available to you because of those that served. It’s only right that we honor them here today.”
It was a cold and overcast 48 degree November day as Vietnam Veteran Floyd Carmichael took to the stage in front of the Wall that Heals on the campus of Gull Lake High School. The audience fell silent as Carmichael delivered a speech on the benefits of monuments like the Vietnam War Memorial, giving testament to the power of a wall that can heal. Afterwards, Carmichael was able to spare a few words.
“I was twenty when I went to Vietnam, and I turned twenty-one while I was there. That was back in January of 1967,” Carmichael said.
Click below to listen to Brian Wiegand’s interview of Floyd Carmichael regarding Vietnam Veteran’s treatment after returning home, and why this memorial helps to rectify that treatment.
By the time he left Vietnam, Carmichael was a Sergeant in the United States Air Force.
“It took until 1982 [for Vietnam vets to be recognized], when this memorial was built and also, in that same year, there was the welcome home parade in Chicago and that was the first time that we’d been welcomed home,” Carmichael said.
This statement fit with his earlier speech as he had touched on the different ways that Vietnam Veterans had been ignored and disrespected upon their return to the United States.
“If it wasn’t for the families and the friends that were here, you know, that was the only welcome home they ever got. We were looked down upon and scorned in many cases. So, this kind of thing means a lot to me.”
Carmichael said, looking up and down the span of the black wall. He went on to speak of the appreciation he felt for the Gull Lake community and those in it who took the time to bring the wall here.
Many of the speakers spoke of the appreciation they felt for the work that went into getting the wall onto Gull Lake’s campus.
Major Kristen Flynn quoted Margaret Mead in her closing statement by saying: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
By Brian Wiegand