Veteran guards The Wall That Heals while guiding families to their loved ones

PADUCAH, KY — The Wall That Heals is beautiful during the day, but the scenery out at Carson Park changes completely after nightfall.

From day night, the traveling Vietnam memorial is a communal place for our citizens to grieve, to remember, to heal.

It glistens in the daylight and glows under lights at night.

Guarding and protecting it on the midnight watch are veterans like Stephen Eakle.

“Probably nobody would mess with it, but what would happen if you showed up here tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock to see your father’s name, your husband, etc., and there was paint all over it?” Eakle said.

Eakle said he did not serve in Vietnam, but he knows what the wall means to those who did. He said he’s not only guarding the wall, but serving as a guide, helping families find their loved ones.

It’s in these quiet hours under the cover of night that friends and family of these Vietnam veterans come to spend one-on-one time with them and leave gifts for them at the foot of the wall.

“A more solemn, more peaceful feel at 2 in the morning,” Eakle said.

As Stephen stands watch while helping families navigate the memorial, he said he’s going to be the listening ear many want while they visit The Wall That Heals.

“You just wonder what are the relationships and the pain, and is this a good thing or is this ripping the scab off of an old wound and gets it going again? I think there are a lot of people that I’ve talked to tonight that have come away with positive as opposed to negative, and I think that’s mostly the case,” Eakle said.

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