View Full Version : Memorial wall hails Ohio vets of Vietnam War

05-18-09, 06:00 AM
Memorial wall hails Ohio vets of Vietnam War

Statue also unveiled as tribute to mothers

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

Published on Monday, May 18, 2009

Ohio Vietnam vets have waited a long time to feel the respect and admiration from a grateful nation that other veterans received when they returned from wars.

Jan Odom of Akron, who attended the dedication of the Ohio Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall in Clinton on Sunday, said she was trying hard not to be overcome with the emotion she felt as she remembered friends from Kenmore High School who served in Southeast Asia in the 1960s.

''I know I'm going to cry all day,'' Odom predicted. ''I think our veterans deserve all the praise we can give them.''

More than 7,000 people descended on the small southern Summit County village of 1,300 people for the unveiling of the 125-foot black granite wall etched with the names of 3,094 Ohio men and one woman who died while serving in the Vietnam conflict.

The wall and all the memorials at the park were created by Ken
Moon of Summit Memorials on West Wilbeth Road in Akron.

Emcee Matt Patrick, morning host at radio station WKDD, said it was a ''long overdue homecoming.''

''Our hearts overflow with respect and gratitude. It's not a day of sadness, by no means. It's a day of celebration,'' Patrick said, his voice filling with emotion.

Luke Patrino of Cuyahoga Falls organized thousands of motorcycle riders in the first Run to the Wall, a motorcycle parade from Heritage Park in Canal Fulton to the memorial on South Cleveland-Massillon Road before the dedication program.

Patrick said Patrino told him the thing that bothered him the most when he returned from Vietnam was that ''I couldn't be proud of my service.''

But Sunday, Patrino shared another memory.

''The worst part was the two-and-a-half-year wait for my two brothers, Vince and Don, to come home,'' he told the crowd.

Also unveiled on Sunday was a tribute to Ohio Gold Star Mothers. The 6-foot-tall granite statue is dedicated to all mothers who have lost children to war. The statue stands on a 3-foot pedestal and weighs 1,600 pounds.

Vera Spring, whose son, Army Sgt. Bruce Wayne Spring of Wadsworth, died in 1970 in Vietnam, unveiled the statue that holds a folded American flag. Spring was assisted by Julia Barkey, whose son, Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. Michael C. Barkey, of Lawrence Township, was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Robert Woods, a Vietnam veteran and state captain of the Ohio Patriot Guard Riders, escorted the women and presented each with a plaque ''on behalf of a grateful America.''

Veterans, from 97-year old Robert Frey of Canal Fulton, who served in World War II, to those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, gathered to reminisce with their comrades.

Skip Haswell, a retired police officer from Beaver Falls, Pa., and vice president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Inc., Pennsylvania State Council, brought 41 people to the ceremony. Haswell said the convoy left home early Sunday, riding the distance to the memorial in 40-degree temperatures.

''We were coming whether it was raining or cold. It didn't matter,'' said the Marine, who served 14 months in Vietnam.

Haswell said he never came across another Marine who was a stranger.

As if to prove the point, Woody Henry of Canton approached Haswell from behind and remarked, ''Marines are no good.''

All he got for his trouble was a hearty laugh from Haswell.

''I say that to all Marines,'' said Henry, who is also a Marine.

''If it was Army, we'd be fighting now,'' he joked.

Patrino told his fellow veterans that the volunteers from Canal Fulton had done their part by raising the $850,000 for the park. But he added: ''It's only half of what we need to finish this beautiful place.

''It's our time. Service organizations, put out a change jar. Motorcycle clubs, have a keg party or a pig roast. Anything to get the job done.''

Plans for the $1.7 million project include building a reflection pool and adding a blue-star mothers statue to honor anyone with a child serving in the Armed Forces.

Donations also are being sought to pave the walkways, which radiate from the wall, with memorial bricks and to add benches around the wall.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.