Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dedication Ceremony at Texas State Veterans Cemetery

“The country that sent us off to war was not there to welcome us home.” ~ Hal Moore & Joe Galloway

In 2008, Congress passed a law authorizing the Secretary of Defense to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and establish the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. On Memorial Day 2012, a poignant ceremony was held to symbolize the beginning of this national commemoration; its primary focus to thank and honor all Vietnam Veterans and their families for their service, valor, and sacrifice fifty years later on behalf of a previously ungrateful nation.

In 2015, Bill Whitaker, then president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 1000 in Killeen, Texas, and Don Kennedy, treasurer, spearheaded the effort to create a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall for the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. They were inspired by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., which is an iconic symbol that honors the U.S. Service Members who fought in the Vietnam War. Together they raised $55,000 for the creation of the memorial.

Bill Whitaker, center, Cliff Baldwin, left, and Dennis Farmerie discuss the money needed for the Vietnam memorial at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. Photo by Josh Bachman.

Whitaker and Kennedy sought out Troy Kelley, a Vietnam Veteran and celebrated sculptor from Salado, Texas, to design and coordinate the construction of the wall, which he did at no cost. Kelley is also known for designing the Fort Hood Memorial which honors the 13 people who were killed during the Fort Hood Terror attack in 2009.

The wall consists of four panels of black granite and is six feet tall. The main inscription engraved on the panels are “Welcome home, brothers and sisters,” which is a common greeting between Vietnam Veterans. Below that are the seals that represent each of the U.S. Armed Forces and the POW/MIA seal is on the fourth panel.

There are personal quotes from Vietnam Veterans describing how they felt in Vietnam, or their thoughts after they had returned home. Some lines are original, written by a single Veteran; some are taken from songs, poems, or something a Veteran has read, or felt expressed their thoughts more accurately. Some inscriptions are a single word that has meaning to a Veteran. For some Veterans this is the first opportunity they have had to express their feelings and emotions in fifty years.

Along the bottom of the panels on the front and back of the memorial are combat scenes showing some of the equipment used by each service branch during the war. Depicted are a Huey helicopter, Armored Personnel Carrier and Infantry, F-4 aircraft, and a Swiftboat.

The wall was delivered to the cemetery with an escort of Patriot Guard Riders on Friday, July 21, 2017. Riley-Gardner Memorial from Hamilton, Texas manufactured and installed the memorial. It’s located on the north side of the cemetery behind the assembly area wall. Approximately 60 people attended the installation and visitors stopped by all day to take in the new memorial. This is the first tribute of it’s kind at a Texas State Veteran’s Cemetery.

“The Texas State Veterans Cemeteries division is pleased at the opportunity to work with the Vietnam Veterans of America to ensure that a lasting tribute honors the dedication and sacrifices of the brave men and women of the Vietnam War,” said Eric Brown, Deputy Director of the Texas State Veterans Cemeteries.

On Monday, August 28, the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery together with the VVA Chapter 1000 will unveil the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to honor those who served in Vietnam and those who did not return. We are sad to say that both Bill Whitaker and Don Kennedy passed away before the project was completed, but they will not be forgotten.

There are plans to have more memorial walls dedicated to Vietnam Veterans placed at the three other Texas State Veterans Cemeteries in Abilene, Corpus Christi and Mission.

All gave some and some gave all. We will never forget. Please join us as we dedicate this unique memorial for all our Vietnam Veterans.

NOTE: This event was postponed due to Hurricane Harvey. We will update the date and time as soon as it is rescheduled.

Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Ceremony
TBD 2017
10:00 a.m.
Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery
11463 SH 195
Killeen TX 76542

Many thanks to the news media for reporting on this project, including the Killeen Daily Herald, KCEN, and KWTX.

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