HOLLAND — The Michigan Vietnam Wall has found its new home.
The wall now stands proudly in the main hall of the Holland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2144. Donated by the Vietnam Veterans of America Post 73, the wall honors the 2,648 names of the Michigan men and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
“This is a tremendous honor to have the Michigan Veterans Wall in our VFW,” said VFW manager Vern Blauwkamp at the dedication ceremony, which took place Saturday evening at the VFW. “As far as I know, we are the only VFW in the state of Michigan that has a wall this size mounted in their VFW.”
At 28 feet long, the VFW had to make some room for the commemorative wall. Because they didn’t have one wall large enough to fit it, a curved wall had to be built in the main hall to accommodate the massive memorial.
“And it’s about time,” said Mayor Nancy DeBoer during the ceremony. She dedicated her speech to the struggles that Vietnam War veterans have faced in their return to the United States.
“For so many years, those who served in Vietnam stayed in the shadows and didn’t mention their service. But one small thing that we can do now to honor our veterans is with this beautiful memorial.”
As spectators glanced over the names engraved in the wall, some recognized a familiar name or two.
David MacKellar, of the American Legion Post 28, found the name of a former classmate, Mark VanBeukering, among the many names listed. VanBeukering was killed on Oct. 9, 1969, MacKellar said.
“I’ll never forget that day,” he said. “He quit school during his senior year for the Marine Corps. We were at our homecoming dance, on Oct. 10, and his twin brother came to the dance and had just found out his brother had been killed the day before in Vietnam. It was a sad evening for our friend group after that.”
As the wall brought tears to a few eyes, the evening was an opportunity for the community to preserve our history and recognize the service of Michigan veterans.
“Our Vietnam veterans went through so much when they were there, and so much when they came back here,” Blauwkamp said. “So it’s really great that we can honor those who gave their lives in service for this country.”