On March 29th we celebrated a new federal commemorative holiday, National Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day, with some great coverage of the event by Mark Brennan here in the pages of the Siuslaw News. It is obviously long over-due given the “welcome home” these Vets didn’t receive originally.
While this form of recognition is new for the Vietnam Veterans, recognition by other means over the decades has existed and in fact is still growing.
Numerous communities around the United States have erected a variety of memorials commemorating either the war, the Veterans, or both. In Oregon alone, there are over a dozen such memorials scattered around the state, largely in municipal parks or in conjunction with memorial gardens at cemeteries. But there are also larger and more prominent formal memorials such as in Canby and Portland.
The Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial in Portland is located at Washington Park on an eight-acre parcel in a garden-like setting. Inspired by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, this memorial which was dedicated in 1987 and contains the names of all Oregon residents who died or are missing in action.
The smaller memorial in Canby is on a busy highway triangular intersection, was dedicated in 2011 and contains a bronze statue of Oregon soldiers as well as a full-size Huey helicopter on a pedestal. It is also a Blue Star Memorial location. Despite the distraction of the noisy traffic, it is well worth the visit.
The Vietnam Memorial Wall replica, or Moving Wall, has made appearances in Oregon – twice here in Florence. Museum founding board member Tim Sapp brought it to town originally in 2001, just prior to 9-11. A permanent version of that memorial is planned in the southern Oregon town of Medford.
Even at eighty percent scale, it will still be 360 feet in length and bare the names of 58,479 Americans, at current count, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The effort by Southern Oregon Veterans Benefit has been on-going for a couple years and they have received good support from both the Medford community as well as city leaders. It will sit on 2.1 acres within the Medford parks system.
While the southern Oregon memorial wall will be national in focus, another memorial is also being planned as a state memorial in Salem, and it will be not only an Oregon state focus, but will contain emphasis on multiple components of the Veterans experiences such as MIA/POW, Nurses, Agent Orange and other aspects. The 1.5-million-dollar project is to be located on the grounds of the state capitol in Salem is targeted for completion Veteran’s Day, 2020.
While segments of our society will always debate the Vietnam war itself, fortunately enough of us recognize the distinction between the war and those Americans who served. Both of these new and welcome Oregon memorials will recognize and honor those Veterans.
At our next quarterly Military Heritage Day on Saturday April 21st, you can learn more about both of these Vietnam memorials directly from representatives of the two sponsoring organizations. Southern Oregon Veterans Benefit Member at Large, Russ McBride, himself a Vietnam Vet, will be joined by the Salem sponsor Vietnam War Memorial Fund President Steve Bates, and both will share their projects with us. We hope you’ll plan to join us as well.
You can learn more about military heritage by visiting the Museum which is open Thursday thru Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and located at 2145 Kingwood Street in Florence.