PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new effort to honor Oregon’s Vietnam veterans is taking shape in Salem nearly 50 years after the end of the Vietnam War.
The memorial would reside on half an acre on the Capitol grounds in Salem and would feature the names of the 710 Oregonians who died in the Vietnam War.
It would be a tribute but also an educational site with sculptures and interpretive panels detailing the history of the war, the social climate at home and the Americans and allies who volunteered for service, from the nurses to the medics.
“We want this to happen because we care about our Vietnam veterans,” said Steve Bates with the Vietnam War Memorial Fund.
The war began in 1955 and stretched on for 20 long years, ending in 1975. It was one of the bloodiest — and most controversial — wars in American history. Nearly 3 million U.S. military personnel served in the war and more than 58,000 died, including the 710 Oregonians.
The Vietnam War raged amid political, racial and social strife at home and most Vietnam vets did not receive a hero’s welcome.
“The Vietnam veterans were treated very poorly when they came home,” Bates said.
Bates said he wants Oregon to forever change that narrative. He said the memorial in Salem will not compete with the Vietnam memorial in Portland’s Washington Park, where the names of the Oregonians who died in Vietnam are preserved.
“We want to have a Vietnam memorial in close proximity to the World War II memorial and the state Capitol that not only honors those who died, but honors those who served,” said Bates.
The Vietnam Veterans of America chapters in Salem and Portland had hoped to have the memorial completed by November of 2022 but the pandemic has caused delays. They’ll re-launch their capital campaign and set a new timetable for completion in early March. Learn more about how to support the memorial’s development.