The Augusta Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars unveiled and dedicated a long overdue memorial to Vietnam War Veterans in downtown Augusta, Georgia, March 29, 2019 – National Vietnam War Veterans Day. The city’s newest military veteran’s memorial honors and remembers the Augusta region’s 169 service members who gave their lives for our nation in Vietnam. The memorial, whose costs exceeded just over $100k, also honors the region’s three Ex-Prisoners of War (POWs Vietnam), one Missing in Action (MIA), one of eight female service members who lost their lives in Vietnam – 2LT Elizabeth Ann Jones, a U.S. Army Nurse – as well as the 15,000 + Vietnam War Veterans currently living in the Augusta region. Chapter members raised the funds by creating and leading a coalition of 17 local patriotic service organizations including the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, the Military Officers Association of America (Augusta Chapter), Association of the United States Army (Fort Gordon Chapter), the Fort Gordon Sergeants Major Association, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Augusta Woman’s Club. Each of the organizations made individual contributions in order to be a part of the project and then solicited additional funds from their colleagues and business associates throughout the community. A special bronze plaque was also promoted to identify individuals and organizations who donated $5000 or more. Eight individuals and organizations generously made those high dollar contributions.
The memorial identifies each of the 169 service members from the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) who lost their lives in Vietnam, portrays a map of the Vietnam theater of operations, and displays an engraving of the “The Three Soldiers” statue in Washington, DC. The memorial also displays the names of the region’s three EX-POWs and one MIA, as well as an inspirational quote from Ronald Reagan, from his speech delivered on the National Mall, November 11, 1984:
“Those who fought in Vietnam are part of us, part of our history. They reflected the best in us. No number of wreaths, no amount of music and memorializing will ever do them justice, but it is good for us that we honor them and their sacrifice …. The men and women of Vietnam fought for freedom in a place where liberty was in danger. They put their lives in danger to help a people in a land far away from their own. Many sacrificed their lives in the name of duty, honor, and country. All were patriots who lit the world with their fidelity and courage.”
The reverse of the memorial proudly recognizes each of the 5 branches of the Armed Services who fought in Vietnam, displays engraved period photographs from each service, and provides service statistics from each branch. The reverse also displays the names of the 17 organizations who partnered with the Augusta Chapter. The memorial’s centerpiece, high atop the 8 feet by 20 feet structure is a 220-pound solid bronze eagle, standing 3.5 feet high, with an expansive 5-feet wingspan. The sculpture was purchased by a single donor from a bronze sculpture and art company located in California. The inscriptions beneath the bronze eagle sculpture read, “Spirit of Freedom” and “God Bless the USA.”
The memorial, which was completed in August, with the placement of a Vietnam-era bronze Soldier’s Cross, a granite pedestal, four engraved granite benches, four additional granite mantle pieces, and four bronze plaques, now sits as a striking center-piece to downtown Augusta’s historic “Olde Town” district. Olde Town, Augusta is the location of the Chapter’s annual Memorial Day and Veterans Days observances and is also home to the city’s All Wars Monument, Korean War Monument, and the city’s Purple Heart Monument.
The unveiling ceremony’s Keynote Speaker was Major General James E. Livingston, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), Medal of Honor Recipient (1970) for actions above and beyond the call of duty in the Republic of South Vietnam, May 1968. General Livingston was born and raised in Telfair County, Georgia and now resides in Charleston, South Carolina. The ceremony also included remarks from Augusta’s Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr., Congressman Rick Allen of Georgia’s 12th District, Commissioner Michael Roby of Georgia Veterans Services, and Brigadier General Christopher L. Eubank, Chief of U.S. Army Signal and the Signal School Commandant.
Ceremony highlights included a static display of numerous vintage military vehicles, courtesy of Augusta’s former Mayor, the Honorable Bob Young, musical performances of “Some Gave All” and “God Bless the USA,” by the Fort Gordon Joint Service Choir, special bagpipe selections played by Georgia Military College personnel, poetry written in honor of Vietnam service members who were killed in action, and a three-volley salute and the playing of Taps conducted by the Fort Gordon Installation Support Detachment and Honor Guard.
The Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff’s Office reported approximately 550 guests in attendance and a local media company, which livestreamed the ceremony on Facebook, reported 275 livestream viewers between the ceremony’s official start time of 1p.m. and the ceremony’s conclusion at 2:30 p.m. There was an outpouring of emotion and gratitude from the many Vietnam Veterans, family members, and citizens who attended and there were few dry eyes in the crowd by the ceremony’s conclusion. Augusta chapter leaders and companions are humbled by the impact of the chapter’s project and are blessed to have provided a place for reflection, remembrance, and gratitude to those who faithfully served our Nation and those family members who were left behind.
The project was chaired and coordinated by Dr. James Brady, Professor of Communications, East Georgia State College, Augusta Campus, who recently received a Gold Patrick Henry Award and National Citation for his efforts.