About 30 Marines who served in the Vietnam War came to a ceremony in Veterans Memorial Park on Sunday to support the dedication of a Marine memorial monument recognizing the 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Division 1964-65 Marines and local Marines who died in the war.
The new black marble monument features laser-drawn photos of the battalion’s Marines and incorporates the previous granite marker, installed in the park in 1988, at its base. The back lists 44 local Marines who died serving in Vietnam.
It joins the Vietnam Dog Tag and War Dog monuments and is part of an ongoing project for a proposed walking path dedicated to locals who served in conflicts from the Revolutionary to the War on Terror.
The park is owned by the Springfield Conservancy District and maintained by the National Trail Parks and Recreation District.
Roger Warren, who served in the 1st Battalion along with three other Clark County residents, worked with fellow Army Vietnam veteran Randall Ark on the dedication. Intermittent rain didn’t deter the mood.
“We spent so much time in the rain in Vietnam, this is appropriate,” Ark quipped.
About 100 people attended the ceremony. Marine Col. Jim Miller came from Virginia to be the keynote speaker and talked about serving with the Marines of the 1st Battalion, the Vietnam War and its legacy.
“When we lost one of our men we grieved hard,” Miller said. “We grieved for every name on that wall.”
Miller later noted he was happy today’s service people are being honored upon returning, unlike those who returned from Vietnam to sometimes trying circumstances. But they maintain a strong sense of loyalty.
“You’ll see guys who hadn’t seen each other in 50 years,” Miller said. “When men go to war together there’s always and unbreakable bond there.”
Many of the visiting veterans didn’t give a second thought to spending part of their July Fourth holiday weekend here with their fellow Marines.
Clark Mayer, who traveled from Hagerston, Md., was one who felt that loyalty.
“It’s always good to see these guys. They’re like brothers. And we had a lot of friends on that wall,” Mayer said, pointing to the monument.
Mayer met up with longtime friend Leo Gonzalez from Indiana at the ceremony. They served with Clark County Marine David. L. Rose and reminisced about talking to Rose just before he was killed and how that bonds survivors together.
Warren was pleased with the journey from the small granite marker to the new monument and wasn’t surprised by the support.
“It was fantastic,” Warren said. “It’s hard to pull people from families, but the Marines came here and stood tall. When it comes time to support, a Marine is always ready.”
He said he also looks forward to the further progress on the new park and said it will be an asset to Springfield.
Future additions to the park will require fundraising, and an endowment is available through the Springfield Foundation to support it.