Vietnam memorial exhibit will heal wounds of war

Traveling replica to stop in Arvada as only Colorado location

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As a veteran of the Vietnam War, Jim Topkoff has met many who, after serving in the war, “don’t want anything to do with it.

“There are thousands who just felt so neglected and unappreciated when they came back,” said Topkoff, who served in the Navy from 1962 to 1966.

That’s why, for him, the Wall that Heals is so important: “It’s an opportunity to be a part of the wall and start to heal those wounds.”

The Wall that Heals — a three-quarter-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. — will come to Arvada’s Faith Bible Chapel from June 20-23. Seven-and-a-half feet tall, 375 feet wide and inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 service members who died in the war, the exhibit is free to the public and open 24 hours a day.

Created in 1996, the wall will go up in Arvada, its only Colorado stop, as one of 33 locations selected for the 2019 national tour after the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, chapter 1071, applied for the opportunity.

“The region is incredibly military-friendly,” said Tim Tetz, outreach director with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, “and the folks with the VVA chapter and the church really put together an incredible committee.”

Volunteers running the exhibit have gone above and beyond to prepare, he said, with some, including chapter board member Topkoff, visiting the wall when it was up in other states.

“They have gone out of their way to make sure they do this right,Tetz said.

A police escort, expected to include more than 100 motorcyclists, will lead the wall into town on June 18, traveling eastward on 64th Avenue before turning right on Ward Road and right on 63rd Avenue. City and church representatives will hand out flags to those standing at 63rd and Ward to welcome the exhibit.

Twenty-five volunteers will set up June 19 at the church, 6250 Wright St., with a soft opening taking place at 6 p.m. The official opening takes place June 20 at 6 p.m., and the exhibit will stay in Arvada until 5 p.m. on June 23.

“It’s just absolutely breathtaking,” Topkoff said, adding the wall looks particularly beautiful at night when illuminated by LED lights.

Additionally, visitors can view objects that individuals have left behind at the wall in D.C. while the exhibit is in town.

“Anyone is more than welcome to participate,” Topkoff said. “It’s a time to reflect and remember those fallen soldiers.”

Tetz echoed that sentiment, encouraging anyone — veterans, family members, those who have seen the D.C. wall and those who haven’t — to visit.

“This wall is special because of how closely it resembles the wall in D.C., and because it’s in your community,” he said. “You will be blown away by how beautiful it is.”

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