HARKER HEIGHTS — Bill Whittaker walked through the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery three years ago for the dedication of the Korean War memorial, but the Vietnam veteran felt something was missing.
There was no memorial for the Vietnam War.
“I thought, ‘That’s not right, and we have to do something about it,’” said Whittaker, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1000.
That started the ball rolling for the fund-raising and design of a Vietnam memorial at the cemetery. In a chapter meeting at VFW Post 3892 in Harker Heights on Monday, board members discussed their fund-raising efforts and the memorial’s design.
“This memorial will be “dedicated to the men and women who died in Vietnam,” he said. “We have raised $43,000 for the memorial, and paid $12,000 down for the four black granite panels.”
The total for the panels is $23,400, with costs for the engraving estimated at about $20,000. The granite panels are coming from a quarry in India and will be engraved by Central Texas Memorial Company in Belton.
Emerson Construction Company in Temple is donating the foundation the memorial will stand on.
Donations for the memorial have come from local churches, businesses, private citizens and some other veteran and civic organizations.
Salado sculptor and Vietnam veteran Troy Kelley, who designed and built the Fort Hood Nov 5, 2009, Memorial, offered his design services for free.
“It’s basically a combination of all Vietnam veterans in the Central Texas area, but Chapter 1000 has taken the lead on the memorial with all the fundraising,” Kelley said.
“As I thought about the design, I realized ‘The Wall’ in Washington, D.C., is the iconic symbol of the Vietnam War,” he said.
So his design resembles “The Wall.”
The memorial will stand 6 feet tall and slope to 4 feet, measuring 12 feet wide. Its 126-degree angle matches the angle of “The Wall” and each panel is 8 inches thick.
A 5-foot-wide, handicap-accessible sidewalk will surround the memorial, which will be located below the bell tower with a bench in front. Additional funds may be needed to pay for the sidewalk.
The headline is WELCOME HOME. Also on the panels are the five seals of the services and the seals of the Vietnam Commemoration. Located on the far right panel will be the POW /MIA seal. Below the seals will be personal sayings and quotes of Vietnam veterans.
Don Kennedy, a Vietnam veteran and Chapter 1000 treasurer, wrote a poem about the war before he recently died that Kelley wants to include as the first engraved quote.
Along the bottom of the panels will be engraved images depicting the equipment used by each service branch during the war, like the F-4 aircraft, a Swiftboat and a Huey helicopter.
One of the quotes is from authors Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway, who wrote, “The country that sent us off to war was not there to welcome us home.” That statement sums up what occurred to many Vietnam veterans, Kelley edited.
To donate to the project, checks can be mailed to Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1000, P.O. Box 2123, Harker Heights, TX 76548.