We wanted to make this a place for reflection and remembrance. So very early in the design process we decided our Memorial would have a seating area. This is unique for memorials. We thought it was important for people to be able to sit, while they remembered an individual listed on it, and also to think about the real cost of war.

We also incorporated several symbolism aspects into the design.  They are:

1. The Memorial faces to the southeast for Southeast Asia.

2. The five wall portions represent the five branches of service. And from above they form two V-shapes for Vietnam Veterans.

3. The distance from the outside of the seating area to the outside of the wall is 21 feet, which is the average age of the men listed on the Memorial.

4. The almost black Pennsylvania granite represents the mourning by everyone who visits the Memorial. It also reminds one of The Wall in D.C.

5. The gold lettering helps give these men lost in Vietnam a regal place in our memories so they are not forgotten.

There were three MIAs, so we made the seating area three sided. On each of the three sides was placed the name of one of our MIAs. We knew then that when their remains were returned, we would so indicate near their name on the seating area. Their names would not be on the Wall portion until they came home. The Wall portion would be for those who were killed in acton, and not missing-in-action.

We decided to list the names by community in random order. This was done in case a name had to be added. A couple years later that in fact did happen as Rodger Terwilliger was added and no one knows the difference from looking at it. After David Wagener’s remains were returned in 1997, we put his name on the Wall at the bottom of the Ann Arbor list and it too does not look out of place.



Why Is The County Memorial Located At The Ypsilanti Township Civic Center?

During the early weeks of establishing the design, committee members traveled around the county looking for the most appropriate location. We considered several criteria including geographic location within the county, visibility of the location, local population density with a strong consideration for the county seat. We agreed, even though it was one of our nation’s greatest anti-war capitals, the most appropriate location fitting our criteria, without exception, was Ann Arbor’s Veterans Memorial Park. We discussed the potential of having problems erecting a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Ann Arbor. But we agreed historically it was the most appropriate location.

We approached the City of Ann Arbor through the Parks Advisory Commission. I attended a Parks Advisory meeting at the Gallop Park facility on June 19, 1990 to request the advisory committee review our Memorial proposal at their next meeting. The process required that we submit a request before that meeting, allowing the Chairperson, Peg Molin, to prepare some early questions. She had been informed that not all county Veterans organizations would approve our request. We were not prepared to answer those questions at that first meeting. Only one person was allowed to speak on behalf of our Memorial request. Example questions from her were: "Do you have the support of the other county Veterans organizations?" and "Do you have the approval of the families of those you plan to list on this Memorial?" She asked for letters of support from all the families of the KIAs, even though she stated that she knew of two families who would not support it. Such questions made it obvious this was going to be an uphill effort. As I spoke, I saw that Chairperson Molin had a County Council of Veterans pamphlet in front of her. That listed all of the county organizations. This indicated to me she had been prepped by someone. I was just interested in getting approval to present at the next month’s meeting. It was supposed to be a five minute meeting, but went on for about 20 minutes.

After the first Parks Advisory Commission meeting, I was interviewed by an Ann Arbor News reporter. From that I learned a lifelong lesson not to say anything you would not want edited and printed in an article. I had mentioned the ‘Baby Killer’ stereotype we were pinned with. In the first paragraph of that first article, the reporter gave it a negative slant, quite different from what I had said. After that we gave them only carefully worded information with no negative tone.

At the next meeting on July 17, 1990, I was accompanied by VVA chapter members and Memorial Committee members. We responded positively to the questions asked of us the previous month. Yes, we had the support of the Veterans organizations. We had gotten an 11-3 County Council of Veterans vote in support of our project. The Chelsea VFW, Ypsilanti VFW and Ypsilanti American Legion were the negative votes. We were also able to report that we had contacted the majority of the families of those to be listed on the Memorial, and they were in favor of our project.

We found the general discussion by many of the senior members of the Advisory Committee to be negative toward erecting our Memorial in Veterans Memorial Park. Examples of their comments included: “Have you considered putting it in a cemetery?” and “Children play in the park, which is not a good place for a Memorial” and “There is too much ambient noise in that park for a Memorial like this,” and “If we allow you to erect your Memorial there, before long we could have rusty tanks and cannons all over Veterans Memorial Park.” Heaven forbid there be tanks and cannons in Veterans Memorial Park.

The younger members of the Advisory Committee seemed much more receptive and understanding. The Parks Advisory Committee requested more time to consider the request and wanted a better description of the Memorial.

Before the third meeting I went to Parks Director Ron Olsen’s office and asked him for a copy of the City Council minutes from the meeting when Veterans Memorial Park was named. The Advisory Committee later used his interpretation of that wording against our request. I should not have requested a copy of that from him.

Mr. Olsen’s interpretation of the 1955 Council Resolution just coincidentally fell in line with the apparent wishes of the desenting members of the Parks Advisory Commission. These were obviously folks who did not wish our Memorial to be in Veterans Memorial Park. Mr. Olsen stated his interpretation was that the name alone is all that should be in the park to honor veterans. See what you think …

(April 7, 1955 Ann Arbor Common Council, page 1012)

“… It is recommended that the former Washtenaw County Fairgrounds excepting the portion to be leased to the Washtenaw Farm Council, be named the “Veterans Memorial Park”. It is believed that when this park is developed it will provide a suitable expression of the gratitude which this community feels and holds for all the veterans of all wars.”

There was major newspaper coverage throughout the efforts of our Memorial committee in our quest to have our Memorial located in Veterans Memorial Park. Prior to the next meeting, even mayor Gerald Jernigan sent a letter to the Parks Commission members urging them to approve our request. Activel local WWII Veteran Adam Banner attempted to read the mayor’s letter at the final Parks Advisory meeting, but the Chairman denied his request.

At that final meeting in August 1990 we committee members presented a beautifully painted artist’s rendition of our proposed Memorial design. It was painted by Vietnam Veteran and accomplished wildlife artist Paul Butala. We continued to field questions by the Advisory Committee members.