War memorial honoring 28 men from Orange Co. nearing completion

Nearly 60,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War, including 28 men from Orange County, and Vietnam veteran Jerry Gatch wants to make sure they're given a hero's tribute.

"Men like me who went to Vietnam and were lucky enough to come back, we owe something to these guys," Gatch said.

Gatch grew up in Orange and strung cables through the jungles of Vietnam from 1967-1968.

More recently, he spent a year researching the 28 men who gave their lives, and even compiled a spiral bound book about them called "28 Men Fell: Casualties Of The Vietnam War From Orange County, Texas".     

He then took things a step further. In November he and a group of volunteers with the Stark '64 Veterans Association, in cooperation with American Legion Post 250, broke ground on a unique war memorial at the Lions Club Fields of Freedom Veterans Park in Vidor.

"They paid the ultimate sacrifice... we wanted to make it a final resting place, a final tribute, a thank you tribute to these men," Gatch said.

Gatch says the estimated $35,000 project was funded almost entirely through donations, and is just weeks from completion.

It features a giant mural depicting a Vietnamese jungle, and plaques with a photo and brief profile of each soldier. They include each man's hometown, where he went to high school, and how he died.
     
Among the soldiers is and PFC Jimmy Lee Fomby, the son of Minnie Ray Sebolt, the woman shot and killed on the steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse on March 14, 2012.
     
Plaques with personal messages written by family members of the fallen soldiers still need to be added under the plaques already in place, and more murals need to be painted along the outer walls.
     
Gatch says he doesn't think there's another memorial like this one anywhere in the United States.

You're invited to attend the official dedication ceremony for the completed memorial, which will be held Saturday, August 10 at 9 a.m. About 60 family members of the honored soldiers are expected to attend.


 


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