The Lone Star Rally is loud. Even far from the event areas, the buzzing of motorcycles can be felt in the air.
Downtown, engines rev, music blares, and attendees yell-talk to each other amid the din.
But at this year’s rally, a spot has been set aside for something rare at the rally: quiet reflection.
Set up in a small park next to the Harbor House Hotel, The Wall That Heals is a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. The exhibit has, since 1996, traveled to cities across the U.S. to allow veterans — and people who know them — to experience the powerful memorial for themselves, said Bob Drabek, site manager for the exhibit.
“This brings a bit of the wall to the communities for people that either can’t or won’t go to the Wall in D.C.,” said Drabek. He has been touring with the exhibit alongside his wife, Brenda, for five years. “It’s very difficult for a lot of guys to face their dead friends on the Wall, so this kind of brings it to them.”
As a memorial, The Wall is legendary for the powerful feelings it commands through its simplicity. The traveling exhibit is half the size of the D.C. Wall. But the greater aspect of its design, the names of every member of the military killed in Vietnam, in the order the casualties occurred, remains unchanged.
On Saturday, as Drabek was talking to a group who had stopped by the exhibit, a man sat nearby, staring at the name on a specific section of the wall. Intermittently, he sobbed and shook his head.
“I see that all the time,” Drabek said. He said that for many veterans, seeing the wall for the first time amounted to a kind of therapy.
“Sometimes you have to come back out here and reface your ghosts,” he said.
The exhibit will be on display through Wednesday. Drabek said that the decision was made to keep the exhibit up in Galveston after the motorcycle rally ends so that it will be displayed on Veterans Day.