The Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial Park.

A Chance Encounter With a War Memorial

The Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial Park

Story by Monty Joynes
Photos courtesy of Jim Doody

While on vacation in the Colorado Rockies, my wife, Pat, and I made an overnight stop in Fruita, Colorado, a town near Grand Junction on I-70. We had just completed a day in the awesome Colorado National Monument landscape, and needed a rest.

Walking through the memorial park was a sobering reminder of the sacrifices that men and women of courage had made in honoring the call of their country to military service.

Our motel was within walking distance of the Colorado Welcome Center, and any observer could not miss seeing a UH-1H Huey helicopter suspended in static display over a nearby landscaped granite-
walled plaza. I recognized the Huey from my days in the Army during the Vietnam War, so I went to investigate.

The Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial Park is dedicated to all who served during the Vietnam War from 1959 to 1975. The granite wall that surrounds the helicopter pad is etched with the names of Western Slope veterans who served during that era, and a Walk of Honor has bricks identifying the donors who made the memorial possible. Many flags fly at the site, and in 2007 three bronze statues of a mother and father welcoming home their son from Vietnam by sculptor Richard Arnold, himself a veteran, were added.The Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial Park.

The founding initiator of the memorial park is Jim Doody. Jim and his fellow veterans began their efforts to construct the memorial in 2001. In the process, they secured the site, got the city of Fruita to under-take the maintenance and liability of the park, got the Associated Builders and Contractors of America to make the construction of the park their 2003 Community Project and contribute $400,000 in materials and labor, and secured other funds and support from across the region to make the memorial a reality.

Walking through the memorial park was a sobering reminder of the sacrifices that men and women of courage had made in honoring the call of their country to military service. Passing though airports on this trip, I saw young people in military uniforms that reminded me that I had worn the uniform and walked in the same harm’s way about forty-eight years earlier. My feeling was pride mixed with sadness.

A Vietnam-era veteran or family member of a veteran visiting the Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial Park may encounter others like themselves, with stories to tell and comrades to remember. The lingering with compassionate strangers is comforting, and even healing, to a degree that remembering pain can be activated by a shared experience. When the stranger says, “I know what you mean,” or “I know how that feels,” the bell of truth rings clear in the desert mountain air. Then there are sincere handshakes, and perhaps a parting raised-hand military salute to indicate both respect and honor. These are the untold legacies of the commitment of a single small community to remember the military service of its sons and daughters during a bitter time of a divided nation.

 

Monty JoynesMonty Joynes won the fiction category prize in the 2012 edition of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. The story was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He served with the 91st Evacuation Hospital (1964-1966). His web site is montyjoynes.com.

.