Carey “C.T.” Christie has a couple requests of Elizabethtown City Council.
The U.S. Army and Vietnam War veteran presented to the council Monday asking for help with upkeep of the replica Vietnam Memorial Wall at Elizabethtown Nature Park.
“When we get old and die, we won’t be out there every day helping people,” he said. “You need people out there to help.”
The memorial is an 80% scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Veterans Tribute Group signed a contract with the city in March 2017 for the wall, which is built near the Hardin County Veterans Tribute at the park. The wall was dedicated in April 2018.
Christie, along with other veterans, completes regular maintenance on the wall and grounds at the nature park to include calling in repairs to the manufacturer of the memorial, picking up trash, collecting memorabilia and flowers left at the site, and cleaning the monument.
Christie brought to the attention of council several street lamps needing repair at the site and asked they be fixed.
“I think we can fix everything by working together,” he said.
The veterans also regularly act as tour guides, helping visitors locate names using the kiosk and speaking with guests and other veterans when they come to the wall, Christie said.
“You got the best healing wall in this United States,” he said. “You have more people coming from everywhere in the world to see this memorial.”
But while Christie sees the wall as the best in the country, he still wants to improve the experience for veterans, especially those of the Vietnam era.
In his presentation, Christie said he has raised enough money to install a full-scale replica helicopter as the final memorial at the site.
“I would like you guys to give me permission to put a huey out there,” he said. “And we all agree that there should be no other monuments out there because it’s a nature park and we have enough tributes out there. But adding to the Vietnam Memorial Wall with a huey will put our memorial over the top of any in the United States.”
Christie said the money for the helicopter, which would be a tribute to the medical evacuation units that saved so many lives during the Vietnam War, already is in hand and can be completed by Memorial Day.
The blueprints are developed and the 51-foot display-model helicopter, which won’t be operational, will sit on a 12-foot tall, round pedestal with fencing around it to the right of the memorial wall, Christie said. The installation of the project will only cost the city lunch for the workers, he said.
Councilman Marty Fulkerson expressed concern about another monument breaking up the serenity that comes with the nature park.
“I love just the peacefulness,” he said. “It’s just that wall just brings it home.”
The park also features an eagle at the entrance to the park, a memorial for the working dogs of the war and the wall.
“That’s the last thing we want to do. This is it — the huey,” Christie said. “Anybody you know that has a purple heart, a huey saved their lives. That wall would be 15 times as big if it weren’t for the huey helicopter.”
Councilman Virgil Willoughby asked about other veteran groups wanting monuments representing their conflict at the park.
“What do we tell others that fought in recent wars when they approach the council asking for whatever equipment that they might like to see at the nature park?” he asked. “It is a beautiful park, but at the end of the day, it is a nature park with the healing wall.”
Christie said although the memorial wall is based in Vietnam history, soldiers and families from all conflicts and wars come to the wall to reflect and heal.
“A lot of them realize that their unit are all on that Vietnam wall, even though they served in another conflict,” he said. “A lot of them feel that our wall represents their unit and their conflicts at the same time. It gives other veterans from other wars a place to come and reflect and think.
“Our wall is probably the only one in the country that has the serenity and the peaceful surroundings that it does,” he added.
Mayor Jeff Gregory said in an interview following the meeting that he expects to give the council a couple weeks to consider Christie’s request.
“I wanted to give them time to be able to process everything that they took in Monday night at the meeting,” he said.
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or email@example.com.