“An effort to preserve the legacy of those who sacrificed all in Vietnam” is part of what drove area Vietnam veterans on a quest to build a memorial wall in the Wiregrass.
That is what retired Marine and Vietnam veteran Harry Grainger said as he surveyed the black granite monument recently installed at the Dale County Agricultural Complex at the intersection of Highway 231 and Highway 12 in Ozark.
Grainger is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 373 which meets monthly in Clayhatchee and is the person who spearheaded the project that has been worked on for three years.
The wall is inscribed with the names of 50 Vietnam veterans killed in action whose military home of record was in Coffee, Dale, Geneva or Houston Counties.
There are 18 names from Coffee County, 11 from Dale County, 13 from Houston County and eight from Geneva County. Each were killed in action or as a direct result of an event in action and each have their military home of record in one of the four counties.
Each of the names has also been verified numerous times through numerous organizations to include national archives, Grainger said. “We started almost three years ago,” he said. “Once we got that done, we made our list.”
Because the Dale County Agricultural Complex is on county owned land, Grainger said that the commission was brought into the loop. “The commission is proud to have the memorial housed at the ag complex,” said Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship. “It is vitally important that we never forget those who gave their lives in service of their country and to give them the honor and recognition they deserve.”
Vietnam veteran Bob Cooper of Enterprise agreed. “As long as they are being remembered, they are still serving,” he said, adding that those still missing in action are never far from his own thoughts.
Ozark Mayor and Vietnam veteran Bob Bunting is a member of VVA Chapter 373. “We’re mighty proud to have the memorial wall honoring those who gave all located in Ozark,” he said. “We’re probably the most centrally located so it will be a convenient way for the families of all those on the walls to visit.
“It is time that our Vietnam veterans are honored,” he said. “They gave so much and received so little.
“It is an honor to have our city host this wall which honors these great Americans who gave their lives for their country,” he added.
Memorial paver bricks, which will be installed around the monument, are now available for purchase by the public. The cost of a four-inch by eight-inch paver, which has space for up to three lines of print on it, is $100. The cost of an eight-inch by eight-inch paver, which has space for up to six lines of print on it, is $200. Any person or business is invited and encouraged to purchase pavers, Grainger said. “These pavers make excellent memorial gifts,” he said. Grainger can be contacted at (334) 797-9052.
“Its emotional to see the names on the wall,” said VVA Chapter 373 President Nathan Stanton as he scanned the 50 names. “But it’s something that we need to do to never forget the sacrifices that were made.
“We’re very fortunate that we are able to make sure they get the honor and recognition due,” the former Marine and Vietnam veteran said, recalling his own service in Southeast Asia. “I was 20 years old when I got there, I was 100 years old when I left.”
The memorial wall will be officially dedicated at 2 p.m. Friday, March 27, to parallel National Vietnam Veterans Day two days later.