Vietnam Veterans will soon receive recognition through a new memorial under construction in Las Cruces.
The memorial, themed “Heroes Never Thanked” will honor those who served in Vietnam, said Joe Martinez, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce, the originator and coordinator for the memorial.
“When Vietnam Veterans came back they weren’t congratulated. They weren’t told ‘thank you.’ They were spit on, laughed at, and treated like terrible people,” Martinez said.
The monument will include the flags of the eight branches of the U.S. military that served in Vietnam. It will also include the names and photos of the 398 New Mexicans who were killed during combat in Vietnam. At the center of the monument will be a medallion with the outline of the country of Vietnam and the words “Thank you.”
In addition, the monument will be built to accommodate memorial services of any Vietnam Veteran who dies.
“We finally get to give them the respect that was due 45 years ago,” Martinez said.
The dedication of the memorial will happen in two phases. The first part of the dedication will take place on the annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, March 28. The first phase will reveal the majority of the semi-circular memorial.
The second phase of the dedication is scheduled for a later date to unveil a UH-1 Huey helicopter, the type of helicopter used during combat in Vietnam.
Groundbreaking for the memorial, located at Veterans Memorial Park on Roadrunner Parkway, took place a year ago. Martinez, who came up with the idea for the design of the monument, said seeing the memorial being built is almost like having a child.
“It’s almost indescribable,” Martinez said. “It’s like getting to the culmination of a dream.”
The cost for the memorial will be about $150,000 to build. Funding for the project was provided by the state and through private donations.