One day visitors will find it outside the trail that winds around the interior of Les Gove Park, on the east side of the park, between the bocce courts and King County Housing, out of the reach of errant baseballs, Frisbees, and the like.
That is, a concrete memorial and honor wall with a sculpture at the center, benches, and the United States flag and the Vietnamese Freedom and Heritage Flag snapping crisply in the wind. All to recognize and honor the veterans of the Vietnam War and to express thanks and appreciation for those who fought for the freedom of South Vietnam.
And inscribed on the wall in English and Vietnamese, these words: “We remember with gratitude the soldiers and allies of the United States of American and the Republic of Vietnam who fought and died for freedom and democracy in Vietnam.”
But first, the Vietnam American-Vietnamese War Memorial Alliance has to come up with the $150,000 it estimates it will need to build it.
Wasting no time, the alliance expects to launch its fundraising campaign this Memorial Day weekend, starting with the sale of about 1,000 tiles for $100 a piece. It will inscribe those tiles in memory of people who fought in the war or of those who supported the cause, then place them at the rear of the monument, next to a sitting wall. It will be only the first of an as yet undetermined number of fundraisers.
Alliance members and City staff have worked side by side for the last 2½ years to complete the design.
“We have agreed upon a design we think is really complementary to the park, that fits the landscape a little bit better than what was originally viewed, and yet meets the satisfaction of the (Vietnam American-Vietnamese War Memorial Alliance) and the City of Auburn,” said Auburn Arts, Parks and Recreation Director Daryl Faber.
Drawings show a rounded, concrete plaza 30 feet across, circled by an arching wall 4½ to 5 feet high, flanked by two flag poles.
The U.S. Flag Code dictates that American flag fly slightly higher than the Vietnamese flag, and in this case, the stars and stripes will fly six inches higher.
Early plans had called for the wall to be a bit higher, but City staff, concerned that people would hide behind the wall or hang out there, lowered it, Faber said.
Also, the sculpture as originally conceived was to be 8-feet tall, but when added to the height of the memorial base, City staff deemed it too large for the park, and the alliance acknowledged it didn’t have the money to pay for such a thing, so it has been reduced by several feet.
Faber said the memorial and honor wall will offer quick access to the new community building, which should open in June.
“Hopefully, in a year we’ll be under construction,” Faber said.
Councilman Rich Wagner noted that the design had nothing to say about lighting, and Faber responded that staff would address that clear oversight.
Upon their return from Vietnam, many servicemen and women met with hostility that had been germinated in the hothouse of the anti-war movement, and in 2013 many veterans raised hot objections to the original proposal to raise the memorial in Veterans Memorial Park.
On Dec. 2 2013, the Auburn City Council agreed the memorial would be better placed in Les Gove Park.
Area veterans applauded that decision.
“We members of VFW Post 1741 see it as a significant battle that we all have won,” veteran Jesse Jose said on that occasion. “There should only be one flag at the Veterans Memorial Park, and that’s the stars and stripes. And there should only be one kind of veteran honored at Veterans Memorial Park, and that’s veterans of the United States of America.”
Donations may be made on-line through the “Donations” page, http://www.honorvietnamvets.org/ or sent to: American-Vietnamese War Memorial Alliance, 3405 172nd St. NE #5, Box 367 Arlington, WA 98223.