PERRYVILLE, Mo. (KFVS) - The Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial (MNVM) Grand Opening Celebration event continued on Sunday with a worship service by Reverend Robert Blake followed by a flag-folding ceremony, a men’s choir performance and more.
The MNVM features several areas of interest including America's Wall, Welcome Center, the Veterans and Military Museum, Honor Flag Memorial and more.
The America's Wall features more than 58,000 names of Vietnam War veterans.
Angie Simmons made the trip down from Farmington, Mo, to visit the site and pay her respects. She was looking at the names on the wall while hearing the names read out loud from the speakers as well.
"It makes my heart heavy because I am a military mom. We have sons serving so it makes my heart heavy for those (veterans)," Simmons said. "I'm so thankful that they were willing to give their sacrifice so that we can have the freedoms we have today."
Simmons also states it's important to make sure future generations understand the sacrifices these soldiers made.
"We need to continue to bring the young generation in and teach them what this all stands for," Simmons added. "They need to be a part of this and to know their history and why and how they have their freedom."
Jack Baer has many family members who served in the military and ones that are still serving today which include his brothers. He said the names hold a special place in his heart as he pledges to never forget what those men have done for us.
"It makes me think of all the sacrifices that they made for us," Baer stated. "It reminds me to never forget about it."
One visitor made the trip from Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee to pay his respects to the veterans.
Wyatt Gantt, 10, circled the date of the grand opening here months ago. This was a very important date for him. He wore a special Operation 300 t-shirt to help honor a close loved one of his also.
"It's about my cousin," Gantt explained about the shirt. "He was killed in one of the helicopters that was shot down in Afghanistan."
Gantt's cousin is Special Operations Chief (SEAL) Aaron Carson Vaughn who was killed in action on August 6th, 2011 when a chopper carrying 30 Americans was shot down in the Tangi River Valley of Afghanistan while rushing into battle.
Vaughn’s life and legacy inspired the creation of Operation 300, a registered not-for-profit organization that hosts adventure camps for children who have lost their fathers as a result of military service. The organization pairs each child with a father-aged, male mentor who spends the weekend doing things with the children they might have done with their dad.
The Operation 300 mission is to provide mentorship to children of the fallen, honor the sacrifice of those who’ve given their all for our freedom and promote patriotism and service in our communities. For more information on this organization, you can find that here.
For Gantt, he said his cousin means a lot to him and wanted to be here at the memorial to honor him and help keep his memory alive.
"I love him," Gantt said.
Heartland News caught up with the MNVM Advisory Board Director Frank Robinson who showcased the second wall at the memorial site; the Honor Flag Memorial.
"This Honor Flag Memorial Wall is a wall that is made for all five branches of the military," Robinson explained. "We honor the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. Then we have images on each of the five sectors of the wall telling the story of each of those branches."
Robinson said one particular image on the memorial speaks to him personally.
"The Vietnam War picture means so much to me," Robinson explained. "The helicopters flying into the LZ (landing zone) reminds me of my last days in Vietnam; how I went to an LZ and how I flew out. So that picture is very important to me."
Heartland News also spoke with the Missouri's National Veterans Memorial Founder Jim Eddleman which was sharing stories with visitors and gazing at the various areas of the MNVM site.
Eddleman provided much of the inspiration and support for the MNVM. From the beginning stages and all throughout the project, he has continued his involvement.
Eddleman said it's nice to see it all come together after making a promise more than five decades ago.
“This has been in planning for 50 years, since I made a promise that I had to do something to show my respect in honor for my veterans,” Eddleman stated. “All through the years I have never forgot about that promise.”
Eddleman has talked and shared stories with many since this wall has been built here. It's those moments that mean a lot to him knowing he has helped with the healing process.
"When they come up and tell me about it, I feel that I have helped a veteran, either start healing or continue healing," Eddleman added.
Eddleman concluded our conversation stating that he is happy how the MNVM site has progressed over the last couple of years but states there will be more added to the site in the near future as well.
"We want to build a Veteran's Hall, a reflection pool down at the wall, and we have some monuments we want to put up," Eddleman continued. "In two and a half years, we have made a lot of progress."
For more information on the Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial, you can visit their website here.