Donations sought for Cost of Freedom memorial

Published 9:16 am Sunday, March 3, 2024

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VIDALIA, La. — “When you go see the wall, don’t go by yourself.”

That was the advice given to Doug McCallister, a veteran who served his country from 1964 to 1967 from Fort Knox to Germany to Vietnam.

McCallister had never before been to see the Vietnam Memorial Wall and had an opportunity to see it in Baton Rouge as a traveling replica visited communities across the nation in the 1990s.

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“Someone said that to me and I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t I go by myself? I do a lot of things by myself,’” he recalled. “When I got there, no one had to explain to me why. It was pretty emotional.”

Point Man International Ministries of the Miss-Lou, a non-profit interdenominational Christian service organization that supports veterans and their families, aims to bring that experience to Vidalia with a local veterans wall memorial.

Point Man International’s mission, keeping Jesus Christ as the focal point, is to act as a referral service to connect hurting veterans and their families to its Outpost and Home Front system for continued support and fellowship. Point Man ministries also has study Bibles available to anyone who needs one, McCallister added.

“Veterans don’t need a handout. All they need is a hand up,” he said.

The Cost of Freedom Tribute project aims to provide further outreach by not only drawing local veterans to one location to visit the memorial, but others from around the nation.

The wall is to be an 80 percent scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., 360 feet long and 8 feet tall at the apex, except the memorial would include the names of casualties and tributes to those involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, World War I and World War II and Korean wars in addition to Vietnam.

The group’s vision is to construct the Cost of Freedom Tribute at 270 Front St., near the Vidalia Riverfront RV Park, which has both the space wide enough for the wall and a scenic view of the Mississippi River.

The display would include nearly 60,000 names of people from all over the country— to be updated annually at no additional cost — along with a considerable number of local veterans illuminated for viewing 24-7, so that those who would like to see the Washington, D.C.-based memorial but are unable to travel there will have the opportunity to view one like it in Vidalia.

“On the note of the wall in Washington, I’ve talked to literally hundreds of people who have seen it and there’s one common denominator among those people,” McCallister said. “Everyone always comments about what an air of tranquility and peace and serenity that permeates that wall even before you get to it.”

When the replica was brought to Natchez, “People had that same experience here,” McCallister said.

The idea of constructing the wall in Vidalia was first presented in 2016, but the Miss-Lou’s history with the wall goes as far back as 1992 when a traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial was displayed at Chester Willis field.

“By electronic counter that week, more than 50,000 people walked through one gate and we had another gate that we didn’t have a counter on,” McCallister said. “At that time, it was sponsored by Natchez Vietnam Veterans support group chaired by Eddie Ray Seyfarth. At the close of the ceremony, we had a flag pole at the pitcher’s mound. I asked for all veterans to come to the center mass so we could have our closing prayer. … We had close to as many people on the field as we had left in the stands.”

Since that time, Point Man International Ministries of the Miss-Lou has had a couple more successful years of displaying the wall.

“Point Man International Ministries sponsored a wall event here in 2012,” McCallister said. “It was an indoor display of the wall at the Natchez Convention Center. Essentially it was the same but smaller version of the wall that we’re going to build as a permanent display.”

The display was at the Natchez Convention Center for a week in 2012 and during that time the late Buck Brown, a local WWII veteran, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.

The event was a huge success and with its proceeds Point Man ministries sponsored scholarships. In 2015, a second wall event was held outdoors on the Vidalia Riverfront, where the permanent display is proposed to be built.

“We were the first group to be offered one of these walls,” McCallister said. “It has been viewed by millions of people and we have the opportunity to give it a permanent home.

“There will be thousands who will get to come from a state away, a county away or a parish away and see that wall when it’s on display 24-7. A lot of veterans want to see it in the privacy of early morning or late evening when there is nobody there. Each veteran approaches it from a different standpoint, whether they want to go there to make their peace or to come to grips with something.”

The Miss-Lou area has thousands of veterans who have served all over the world from WWI to the present day, many who gave their lives serving, but there is no local memorial to honor them, McCallister said.

Besides veterans, there is an appreciation for the project by the community at large from an educational and economic standpoint, he added.

“It allows for not just students but for all people to say, ‘I didn’t know we had this many people in this era that participated in this campaign.’ From an economic standpoint, I think it doesn’t require a tortured stretch of the imagination to say that veterans’ groups are anxious to find a location where they can hold reunions and conventions and it’s surprising the number of those groups there are. … Setting us apart is this will be inclusive of all of these groups.”

Point Man International members McCallister, Jeff McClure, Conrad Anderson Jr., Reynard Chapman, Nathaniel Williams and Glen McGlothin made multiple presentations about the Cost of Freedom Tribute project to the Vidalia Board of Alderman and as a result received the promise of $40,000 allocated by officials for the down payment.

The total cost is of the project is $360,000, which includes $225,000 for the memorial wall itself and the additional cost of surrounding elements.

The site would also contain a large flag pole, walking paths with the option of having memorial bricks put in place, a stationary Huey helicopter and an open-air prayer chapel.

Individuals can sponsor and inch of the wall for a $100 donation or a foot of the wall for a $1,000 donation to the non-profit, McCallister said.

Point Man International Ministries of the Miss-Lou is a 501(c)3 organization.

To date, approximately $5,500 has been raised by schools and church groups for the memorial in addition to numerous individual contributions and the $40,000 down payment allotted by the Town of Vidalia.

“Optimistically, we’d like to have our memorial in place for Veterans Day 2024. That’s a pretty big goal,” McCallister said. “However, people who support veterans have a way of meeting the needs and supporting the cause.”

McCallister thanked contributors to the memorial, including the Vidalia Mayor and the Board of Aldermen, as well as Jordan Kaiser & Sessions Engineers and former Waycaster & Associates Architects — now Waycaster Dungan — for the preliminary work on the project.

Contributions can be made online at or by mail to 207 Carter St., Vidalia, LA, 71373. For more information, email