CENTRAL POINT — A local veterans' organization has launched an ambitious half-million-dollar fundraising effort to install a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at Don Jones Park."Most people can't get to Washington, D.C., to see the actual Vietnam memorial, so this is a great opportunity," said Russ McBride, president of Southern Oregon Veterans Benefit. "This will be a place where thousands of veterans and their families can come to see it anytime they like."
The plan for a replica of the wall is a restart of a project announced last summer. Backers, including state Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, originally proposed placing the replica wall in Medford's Veterans Park, near the intersection of Highway 99 and Stewart Avenue.
Space and logistical issues, however, led to a new site."On the side of Veterans Park ... we would've had to weave it between trees," said Medford architect John David Duffié, who is assisting Southern Oregon Veterans Benefit. "There were other infrastructure issues as well."
After scoping out the possibilities, the veterans organization settled on a relatively new park in east Central Point. As an added benefit of the location change, the replica wall was bumped up roughly 50 percent, allowing the 58,195 names on the original wall in Washington, D.C., to be 3/8ths of an inch high.
The memorial, constructed with polished black granite, is 493 feet, 6 inches long with a 10-foot apex. AVTT Custom Engraving of Flint, Texas, builder of the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, fabricates both 80 percent replicas, standing 8 feet and extending 360 feet, and 50 percent replicas, 5 feet tall and 240 feet long.They are built with lightweight anodized aluminum.
Duffié, who began working with the group a month ago, will present sketches of the project to the Central Point City Council April 21. Details of an accompanying structure serving as a visitors center for the memorial are still in discussion.
Duffié said most outdoor memorials have a covered kiosk providing a place for presentations and gatherings. Because the center will include monitors with computer access for locating names and house other memorabilia, McBride and other committee members have expressed a desire for an enclosed building.McBride, a Vietnam veteran who saw action during the Tet Offensive in 1968, said it will take $300,000 to purchase the wall and another $200,000 to get the surrounding structure and landscaping in place."
We would love to see it done by Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) this year," McBride said. "But if we're not able to raise the funds we need right away, it will probably be delayed until 2016. We'll need $150,000 to start," he said.
McBride is encouraged the project will fly partly because there are more than 300,000 veterans in Oregon, and partly because a similar effort that needed $500,000 was accomplished in Enid, Okla., three years ago.The pavers incorporated into the project will go a long way toward paying for it. McBride estimates the group will need to sell 3,000 bricks for $100 each to fund the majority of the wall's expense.
Comnet Marketing Group has chipped in support, seeking telephone donations. Although no deal has been signed, McBride said Home Depot has expressed interest in donating between $20,000 and $30,000 in materials toward the project.
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/ Economic Edge.