As a member of the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, Thomas Twigg did his duty and completed his mission. Now this disabled veteran and his wife, Dee, have a personal mission. The Twiggs intend to bring the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to people all over the country who cannot travel to Washington D.C. For the Twiggs it is imperative that all veterans and their family members have the opportunity to seek some closure in return for answering the call of duty. Financial and physical hardships should not hinder this.

To fulfill this mission, Tom and Dee have constructed a replica Wall that stands 8 feet tall and 46 feet long. The scaled size allows the Wall to be displayed indoors as well as out. And, because the names are closer together, despite the smaller size, the impact is huge. “It hits you all at once,” says Tom. “It brings back the reality of what it cost us to be over there.”

The Kissimmee residents have been traveling for several years now, displaying the Wall at community events, schools, VA Hospitals and other locations. They will be bringing the Wall to Lazydays RV SuperCenter in Seffner, FL on February 15, 2011.

Recently I had the privilege of speaking with the Tom Twigg about his mission, motivation and goals.

 

AP: What motivated you to take on this project:

“We have a beautiful Memorial in Washington D.C. During the 2-1/2 years I spent in the West Haven, Connecticut VA Hospital I saw my fellow veterans take many day trips to the Wall. The bedridden patients of course couldn’t go! The van was not equipped for them. Since then I’ve been to the Memorial in Washington twice. But what about the Veterans and families who, for financial or physical restrictions, can’t make the trip? Are they not allowed some closure, a last goodbye?”

 

AP: So your goal is to help Veterans and families find closure?

“Our mission is two-fold. First, to reach every confined, hospitalized or paralyzed Veteran and family member who is either physically or financially unable to visit the Memorial in Washington, D.C. Second, to educate schoolchildren about the real hazards of war so that these future community and government leaders truly understand the consequences. ”

 

AP: So, the veterans are finding closure and the kids understand that those names are not just numbers in a history book, but real people, real lives.

“There is no better teacher than each of those 58,000-plus names on the Wall.”

 

AP: Tell me about the process of building the Wall. What was it like?

“It was and is a process of love. A lot of long hours and seemingly endless days. All hit and miss. Learning from our mistakes. But it’s all worth it though when you see the tears of happiness and sadness once they find a name and have the opportunity to reflect.”

 

AP: When you display the Wall, what has the response been?

“The response has been tremendous. People tell us they have found closure, a sense of release. People leave mementos at the wall. We have all types of items – pictures, baseball gloves, letters, flowers, etc. We carry a lot with us. Others we forward to D.C. Everything has a story behind it. Everything has meaning.”

 

AP: So each person who visits has the opportunity to reflect or interact with the Wall in his or her own way?

“Yes. We let them know we are there to try to answer any questions they might have, but we’re not there to put on a show. If they ask, we help them find the name they are looking for. Then we try to leave them alone with their memories, and let them find peace.”

 

AP: Your home base is in Central Florida, but you have been traveling all over the State, even up and down the East Coast with the Wall.

“We want to go everywhere we can. Wherever there are veterans or their families who need closure, who need peace.”

 

AP: Aside from the event at Lazydays on February 15, what else is on your immediate itinerary?

“We have a venue Memorial Day in Rainelle, West Virginia. Then we are going to the VA Hospital in Beckley, West Virginia. We also have a VA Hospital in Phoenix that has asked us to try to get there. Finances being what they are, that one is a long shot, but we’re working on it!”

 

AP: How are you funding this mission?

“Right now we are paying for this out of pocket, with my disability and our Social Security. We decided to purchase the RV, a 1996 Sunrise, so we could reduce costs by eliminating motels and restaurants. Most of the time we can set up on location. But, with the price of fuel, insurance, wall maintenance and travel expenses it’s getting tough. Bottom line is, to keep doing this work, we need sponsors to step up to the plate.”

 

AP: What can we expect at Lazydays on February 15?

“We will be there with the Wall to do what we always do, offer closure to those who may have someone on the wall and hopefully to make more people aware that we are out there and what our mission is. We have also started doing a panel, for each state we go to, for our Fallen Heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan. That will also be on display.”

 

 AP: Thank you again for your service and for what you are doing for our veterans. See you on February 15.

 “Thank you. See you then.”

 

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