Destination PA: The Wall That Heals

Destination PA

ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — Every November 11th, Americans pay their respects to both Veterans past and present. Many travel to memorials in Washington DC, but in this week’s Destination PA, we take you to a replica memorial in Blair County.

“The Wall That Heals” is located outside the James E. Van Zandt Veterans’ Administration (VA) Medical Center in Altoona. The memorial is one-third the size of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC, but it serves the same purpose: providing a time to heal, reflect, and pay respects.

“I joined this VA to help veterans and to make sure that we’re plugged into the community,” Shaun Shenk, combat Veteran and worker for the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center, said. “So when there was an option to come to the VA, I jumped on board.”

Since this VA has been around, Shenk said they added 50 services, expanded 300 personnel and doubled their impact.

“When veterans come here, they know they’re getting taken care of,” Shenk said. “We also take a 360-degree approach to veterans’ well-being and healthcare, and so having this wall here really helps them emotionally and spiritually while the hospital, and in many ways, helps them physically.”

The wall outside the VA was built two decades ago and needs some repairs, but over the years, it has stood the test of time and has been visited by tens of thousands of people.

“We have veterans from all different demographics who come and visit this wall and speak about the power it has in their lives,” Shenk said. “Some do a daily journey, and many people volunteer to help keep up the maintenance of the wall.”

Volunteer efforts are needed along with financial donations to keep the wall in good condition. VA officials said a future goal is to have a brand new memorial made of granite. However, it would cost upwards of a million dollars.

“What the wall signifies is the more than 58 thousand Americans that lost our lives while defending their country while in Vietnam, and so this is really, really important to us,” Shenk said.

VA officials said the cost of a new wall could decrease if the public is able to volunteer time in order to assist in constructing a new wall. There are no concrete plans at this time for a new wall to be built at the site.

VA officials say there are a number of events each year at the wall, including Armed Forces Day and Veteran’s Day events, which are open to the public. If you’d like to donate time or money to the wall or other projects at the VA, call 814-943-8164 and ask for the voluntary services office.

For more information about the VA, you visit their page under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ website.

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