A concrete memorial and honor wall with benches, and the United States flag and the Vietnamese Freedom and Heritage flag, snapping crisply in the wind. And these words inscribed on the wall in English and Vietnamese: “We remember with gratitude the soldiers and allies of the United States of America and the Republic of Vietnam who fought and died for freedom and democracy in Vietnam.”
All to recognize and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, and to express thanks and appreciation for those who fought for the freedom of South Vietnam.
Last Saturday, the sun shone on the memorial’s dedication in Les Gove Park and on the more than 100 people who came to see it happen.
Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus began by noting that too many servicemen and women met with hostility upon their return from Vietnam, and that the memorial is one way to salve old wounds.
Making the memorial happen was not easy, Backus noted. In 2013, when many local veterans objected to the proposal to raise the memorial in Veterans Memorial Park, the Auburn City Council agreed the memorial would be better placed in Les Gove Park.
“Knowing that the veterans in our community are going to be honored, when in some cases they were not honored when they came home from Vietnam,” Backus said. “They did not have an opportunity (for their) courage, their bravery, their dedication to our country to be celebrated. Now, I hope in some small way this memorial will let them know how much they are appreciated, how much they are loved, and how much we are here to support them.
“So, for those of you who are veterans, please know that we are indebted to you forever for your service to our country,” Backus said.
Lan Fan Jones, co-president of the American-Vietnamese War Memorial Alliance (AVWMA), described her hope for the memorial.
“We hope when you come here, you will feel peace, healing and it will make you proud, and this memorial is also for 59,000 Americans, 300,000 South Vietnamese, who gave their lives in Vietnam. This is for the veterans who served and fought. For myself, this is for my father … and members of the alliance who’ve passed away,” Jones said.
The memorial can be found along the trail that twists around the interior of Les Gove Park, on the east side of the park, between the bocce courts and King County Housing. Alliance members and City staff worked side by side for the last 2½ years to design the memorial, a rounded, concrete plaza 30 feet across, circled by an arching wall 4½ to 5 feet high, flanked by two flag poles.
The AVWMA had to come up with $150,000 to build the memorial.
It launched a fundraising campaign on Memorial Day weekend, starting with the sale of about 1,000 tiles for $100 a piece. It inscribes those tiles in memory of people who fought in the war or of those who supported the cause, then places them at the rear of the monument, next to a sitting wall.
Tung Tranh, president of the Vietnamese American Community in Seattle and South King County, explained what it means to have it.
“After the war, the communists destroyed all the statues, memorials of the South Vietnam Army. So this is the only country that allows us to have things like this, to honor the sacrifices of our military,” Tranh said.
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