MIDDLETOWN >> On a rainy Veterans Day, Lower Bucks County got its first look at a memorial to be built here remembering the 96 residents who never returned home from Vietnam.
Gathered at Veterans Park in Middletown Township Ed Preston and members of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Committee unveiled a scale model of the memorial slated for installation at the Veterans Highway park in September 2021.
The 10 foot by 10-foot memorial will be anchored by a bronze statue of a young soldier, holding his helmet under his left arm and carrying a machine gun over his right shoulder.
The statue will be set against two black granite panels mimicking the wall in Washington, D.C., one listing the names of the 96 men who never came home, including Walter Harris Sigafoos III from Newtown who remains Missing in Action, and the other decorated with the insignias of the five branches of service and an inscription dedicated to all those who served.
While organizing a visit of the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to Bucks County in 2017, Preston said he discovered that there is no official Pennsylvania Vietnam Memorial.
That realization planted the seeds for the Lower Bucks Memorial and the ultimate goal to build a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Memorial to the more than 3,000 service members from Pennsylvania who gave their lives in Vietnam.
“On Veterans Day, we certainly honor all those living veterans. And I do. I salute all of you and I thank you for your service. To our Vietnam Veterans here, welcome home,” said Preston.
“A memorial should not only honor those who have given the last full measure, but those who said I will. I can. You can depend on me,” said Preston. “So we developed our memorial around those two things - the 96 men from Lower Bucks County who didn’t come home - and our living Vietnam Veterans.”
The committee commissioned nationally recognized sculptor Abbe Godwin to create the soldier portion of the memorial. Her works include the Corpsman and the Peacekeeper statues, both at the Camp Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, NC. Godwin also designed the North Carolina Vietnam Veterans Memorial, entitled “After the Firefight,” which stands on the grounds of the State Capitol in Raleigh.
“Her work is spectacular. It is awe-inspiring and makes you think about what it is,” said Preston.
The finished memorial will measure 10 feet by 10 feet and will be built on white granite stone pavers. Its black granite panels will each measure 30 inches wide by 60 inches high.
“This will be dedicated to all who served, some who came home, some who did not, some who died there and some who came home to suffer the affects of a war of a lifetime,” said Preston. “This monument is dedicated to all of them.”
Among the dignitaries attending the Veterans Day event were US Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, State Senator Robert Tomlinson, decorated Vietnam War hero Captain David Christian, Dan Fraley, Director of Veterans Affairs in Bucks County and State Rep. Frank Farry.
“I have been involved with many memorials around the country, but there’s nothing like coming home,” said Christian who grew up in Lower Bucks County. “I’m proud to be an American veteran. I’m proud to be born at the right time, the right place to serve my country. I did not think I was taking a bullet for my country, but I was ready, willing and able. I was trained well. Vietnam Veterans were second to none in training. Second to none in fighting. We lost not battles. The war was lost by the people in the halls of Congress.
“This memorial is going to be American history and it’s definitely going to be part of Bucks County history,” said Christian. “You have to remember the sacrifice. Yes, we remember the dead, but you have to remember the living. You have to remember the men who came back to Bucks County who are walking the streets. They are still looking for benefits. You have to remember them,” he said. “By evidence of this wonderful memorial today, we are not going to mistreat our veterans. We are not going to forget our veterans. And we are going to be richer for it.”
In his remarks, Fraley said,"We’re here to acknowledge our Vietnam Veterans. They not only sacrificed the horrors of war they sacrificed the horrors after the war. I’m talking 19 million gallons of herbicides that were sprayed in an area the size of South Jersey. It was sprayed in its concentrated form.
“There are about 2.7 million veterans who served,” he continued. “Today, there’s 610,000 left in this country. If we can do more and acknowledge our veterans by putting this memorial here we’re doing our job.”
Congressman Fitzpatrick presented Preston with a flag flown over the US Capitol, recognizing him as “a hero” for the selfless time and energy he has put into “honoring our veterans.
“Our veterans are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and put their lives on the line for one reason - because they love their country more than they love themselves,” said Fitzpatrick. “That’s why we tell our veterans thank you, welcome home and we love you.”
Preston accepted the flag, but pointed to the veterans in the crowd. “I’m not the hero here. I’m just the guy who puts things together,” he said. “You men and women are the heroes.”
The memorial will cost $230,000 to build and erect. To date, the committee still needs to raise $100,000 and is looking for donations from the community to fund the project. Donations are tax deductible.
“The pandemic over the last seven, eight or nine months has really curtailed our ability to raise funds,” said Preston. “If you’re in a position to help, we’d be very grateful.”