The opening ceremony for The Wall That Heals exhibit in Howell featured a guest speaker with an exciting story about his family’s escape from Vietnam and their gratitude for the United States Armed Forces.

Visitation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial officially began Thursday at the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport and kicked off with a special ceremony. Guest Speaker Phillip Pham was just four months old living in Vietnam when his father, a First Lieutenant for the South Vietnamese Air Force, decided to steal a C-130 cargo plane for his family and 50 others to escape to Singapore as North Vietnamese forces converged on Saigon. On April 3rd, 1975, Phillip’s father, Khiem Pham, talked a co-pilot out of a mission in order to take his place, then informed the crew he would be commandeering the plane. The group was able to make it to Singapore and eventually the United States.

Phillip says his father and the others that escaped were seeking the freedom that would’ve been taken away from them by Northern Vietnamese communists. Khiem had some objection to the idea that he “stole” the plane, joking that he actually just "borrowed" it, but expressed his gratitude for veterans and those whose names are on The Wall That Heals. Both Khiem and Phillip became emotional thanking the U.S. Armed Forces for their role in bringing them to America, the veterans in the audience for their service, and those whose names are on the Wall for their sacrifice.

The ceremony included reading the names of the “sons of Livingston County”, which are the seven men from the area that lost their lives during the war, followed by laying their placards and wreaths at the wall. The Wall That Heals and other exhibits at the site will be open 24 hours a day through Sunday. First responders will be honored at the site this evening with a ceremony at 6:30pm. A schedule of the weekend’s events can be found at the link below. (DK)