Teens make dream come true in Thebes, Ill.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

If they watch television for awhile, adults may get the impression today's teenagers are interested in nothing more than fashion, hair care and rap music.

Of course, that's not the case, and the evidence isn't stronger than in Thebes, Ill.

There, a group of teenagers led by Ada Osorio, 17, raised money to bring The Wall That Heals to their town of 478 people.

They needed $6,000 for providing electricity, feeding and housing volunteers who work with the Wall, printing brochures and other expenses. The Thebes Junior Volunteers, of which Osorio is a member, raised $900 through bake sales, roadblocks and raffles. The rest of the money is coming from Alexander County and a veterans organization.

The Wall That Heals is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial. It is 250 feet long. The names of 58,220 men and women killed or declared missing in action during the Vietnam War are etched into it. None of those names are of people from Thebes.

So one wonders why this was so important to Osorio.

Her grandmother, Joyce Schemel Hale, lost a brother in Vietnam. She was 13 years old and living in Cape Girardeau at the time. Life was never the same for the Schemel family, because Gary was the golden child they lost.

Osorio knew her disabled grandmother would never make it to Washington, so she brought the wall to Thebes.

It's an inspiring story, and Ada Osorio deserves our thanks and admiration.

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