Members of the area community, including veterans, active duty service members and county residents, gathered to commemorate the rededication of Vietnam Veterans Memorial during a ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., May 31.
The ceremony celebrated the addition of a gazebo above a fountain in the memorial, which features glass walls inscribed with the names of the 58,229 men and women who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.
Throughout the event, speakers honored the memories of those on the wall and praised Vietnam-era veterans who returned to build their lives in the wake of a conflict that divided the nation.
“The glass panels are a poignant reminder of the tremendous sacrifice of the Vietnam generation,” said Col. Timothy Salmon, the commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station New River. “(At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) we can reflect on the past and contemplate the future.”
Salmon, who credits his path as a Marine to a Vietnam veteran, said the veterans showcased true patriotism with their faithful devotion through what was considered an unpopular war.
The gazebo is etched with the unofficial lyrics of taps and sits at the center of the glass walls, covering a pool with five fountains representing the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
“(The memorial’s) completion marks our tribute to those who were killed and causes us to remember all who were part of the Vietnam experience,” said Sammy Phillips, Jacksonville city mayor.
Phillips said he hopes the community’s involvement in supporting the monument helps those who suffered mistreatment after the war to heal. The memorial is a testament of the community’s commitment to veterans, he added.
Vietnam-era veterans fought past an undeserved negative reputation, thrived in society and ensured future generations of service members were honored for their sacrifices, said Ray Smith, a retired Marine major general and the ceremony guest speaker.
“Our generation has done better in business, government, politics and philanthropy than any other group in our nation’s history,” said Smith, who served during the Tet Offensive in 1968 and participated in combat operation in Khe Sahn, the Rockpile, Con Thien and Dodge City south of Danang. “Vietnam veterans have an absolute right to not only be proud of their service, but to be even more proud of their service since Vietnam.”
The memorial provides veterans with a place in the community to remember and honor their experiences, said Emmett Salas, a retired Marine sergeant major and a guest at the ceremony.
“I’m proud to see the people who went through what I went through stand taller,” said Salas.
Salas said he was honored by the community’s response, and hoped other veterans would make their way to the memorial to reflect.
“Come, sit and enjoy it,” said Salas. “Pray and remember.”
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is neighbored by the Beirut Memorial, 9/11 World Trade Center beam, Camp Johnson and the N.C. Veterans Cemetery. Lejeune Memorial Gardens is located at Lejeune Boulevard and Montford Landing Road in Jacksonville, N.C.
For more information about the Onslow Vietnam Veterans Memorial, visit onslowvietnammemorial.org.
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