Hundreds of South Bay residents joined Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), the city of Gardena, and the Gardena Veteran’s Association last weekend to welcome the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Center’s “The Wall That Heals” exhibit to Gardena.
Waters has worked with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and local officials for nearly two years to bring the traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC to the South Bay for the first time in its history.
“It is with great pride that I welcome ‘The Wall That Heals,’ an extraordinary traveling replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. to the South Bay,” Waters said. “The Vietnam War Memorial is a symbol of honor, recognition, and remembrance of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in service to our democracy. I firmly believe that the residents of this community, and this state, deserve the opportunity to say thank you to some of the bravest Americans who have ever lived. With the help of Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda, the city council, City Manager Ed Medrano, the Gardena Police Department, Director of Parks and Human Services Kelly Fujio, and other talented volunteers, I am extremely pleased to celebrate the historic arrival of this memorial to the 43rd Congressional District.”
“The Wall That Heals” is a 375-foot-wide, 7.5-foot-tall memorial that lists the names of more than 58,000 service men and women who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. The memorial also includes a mobile education center that features interactive displays such as Hometown Heroes, In Memory of Honor Roll, and the Wall of Faces, which house photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia that provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the legacy and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans.
The host committee was joined by Judge Vincent Okamoto, a retired United States Army Captain and former Gardena City Councilmember, who delivered the keynote address. As the highest-decorated Japanese American veteran of the Vietnam War, Judge Okamoto is the recipient of a Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.
Local leaders, veterans service organizations, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of California District 4, and Gardena’s Nisei Memorial VFW Post 1961, and representatives from the Gardena and Torrance Police Departments were also participants in the Welcome Event.
During her remarks as the honorary chair of the host committee, Waters discussed the importance of “paying tribute to local Vietnam veterans in a meaningful and powerful way” throughout the 13-year 50th Anniversary Commemorative period, which extends through Veterans Day 2025.
“In my opinion, full and appropriate recognition of our Vietnam Veterans is long overdue,” Waters added. “Our service men and women often returned home to communities conflicted about the reasons for that war, in a country so far away. Many veterans have spoken about how difficult this was, and how much harder the feeling of being ignored and isolated by their home communities made the healing process. I want all of the Vietnam Veterans to know, even if you’ve never been told before, that this country appreciates you, we respect you, and we love you.”
At the ceremony, Waters presented nearly 40 Vietnam War veterans with an official 50th Anniversary Commemorative Lapel Pin from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) during the Welcome Event. They will also receive certificates of recognition for their service to our country from her Los Angeles Office. She also obtained the American flag that flew over the United States Capitol Building on March 15, 2018 in order to commemorate the “The Wall That Heals” visit. The flag, which flew on the South Side of Mas Fukai Park, was dedicated with the quote “in honor of ‘The Wall That Heals’ visit to the City of Gardena, April 2018.”