Keystone Memorials of Georgia and Arnet’s Memorials of Ann Arbor

Our committee worked out our design with Arnet’s Memorial and made our initial payment and they got to work on our project. We wanted the stone to be as dark as possible, but also come from the United States. Arnet’s Memorials of Ann Arbor had Keystone Memorials in Elberton, Georgia (about 100 miles from Atlanta), cut the stone sections.

The starting block of dark gray granite was about 3 foot by 9 foot by 9 foot and weighed about 58,000 pounds. It came from a quarry in Pennsylvania.6 It was transported to Keystone on a flat bed truck. On April 20, 1991, I was able to travel down there and be toured around the cutting and polishing process by owner Tom Oglesby. At that time they had just begun the first parallel cuts for our Memorial in the massive granite block. With a diamond slurry flowing over it, they used two parallel long wires, that actually ran a long ways outside the building to cool before returning to the cutting surface. After 6 to 8 hours, this slow parallel abrasion cutting would go all the way through the massive block. The parallel slab would then be cut in the required pieces with the proper angles. Then all the surfaces would be polished. It was then shipped to Arnet’s Memorial in Ann Arbor where they cut the names into the stone and applied the gold leaf to the letters.

After the massive cement foundation was completed, the pieces were transported to and erected at the Memorial site.


Dedication Ceremony

Our Committee planned for the best dedication we could. Jack McManus, then VVA State Council President, arranged to have their monthly meeting in the Ypsilanti area the weekend of our dedication. That brought VVA Chapter Color Guard units from all across the state to the dedication. There must have been 300 Veterans in uniforms, with almost as many Flags.


westmoreland close up

It was a cool November 10th, but much nicer than the week preceding. We were blessed with a nice day and all the preliminary work and planning paid off. Everything went off even better than planned. We estimated there were about 600 family members of those listed on the Memorial present. The total attendance was between 2,500 and 3,000.

Before the ceremony, we set up a ‘meet and greet’ between the family members of those listed on the Memorial and General William Westmoreland, our keynote speaker. There were many photographs taken. There were donauts and refreshments there too.

Fate was involved in the General being there. Jim Uphouse, VVA 310 member, and a member of the airborne unit that was named after the General had a number to reach him. After a few calls I connected with him. I had the chance to see him in the field in Vietnam, so that was special for me. He said he would be honored to speak at our dedication. His only stipulation was that we fly him from Charleston and back the same day, so he would not be away from his wife that night. After much searching I connected with Connie Kalitta Flying Service at Willow Run. They offered to send a plane from Nashville to Charleston, pick up the General, hold the plane at Willow Run to return the General back to Charleston after the event. That at no cost to us. Divine intervention again.

The entire time he was on the ground here Jim Uphouse served as his aide. Jim could still fit in his sharp 101st Airbourne uniform and looked sharp.

The General’s speech was right on point and appreciated by all in attendance. Some unforgetable remarks he made included the likes of “I would be remiss by not remembering that this day is the Marine Corps birthday” and “I can still fit in my uniform.”



W4 Country’s “Sgt. Dave Kelly” (left, next to Gen. Westmoreland) was the Master of Ceremony for the dedication. Dave served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. He did a splendid job. His comment about watching the shoreline of Vietnam dropping off in the horizon as their jet headed back to “The World” was most memorable. He said that he thought he would not see Vietnan again. But he followed up with, “Today, twenty years later, I just close my eyes and I can see it vividly. It is not gone.” That hit us Vietnam Veterans right on.

Besides the above and myself, other speakers included Wes Prater, Ruth Ann Jamnick and other township officials, VVA 310 President Leroy Paige and others.




But, most moving was Woodrow Hunter who spoke representing all the families of those listed on the Memorial. Mr. Hunter was a retired University of Michigan full professor and a retired Army Lt. Colonel. He served in WWII in the European Theater. His son Michael (below left) was killed in Vietnam on January 28,1970.

How It Feels To Lose A Son In War

michael_hunter_-AIt is a privilege for me to speak on behalf of all the families of the Washtenaw County men who were killed in Viet Nam. And tell you how it feels as a parent of one who made the supreme sacrifice for his country.

Having made the supreme sacrifice makes your son and mine very special persons. It goes without saying that my son was a special person for many other reasons. Michael (pictured left) was intelligent, kind, cheerful, loyal, and above all he cared deeply for other people.

I can’t imagine the torment he felt when it became necessary to kill other human beings. Indeed he wrote telling his mother and me how tormented he felt. Toward the end of his tour he talked more and more about the awful character of the War in Vietnam, and how much he wanted it to be over so that he could come home.

We have a picture of our son sent to us by one of his buddies. He is standing in front of his sand bag bunker. Nothing unusual about this, but he looked so weary, much much older and so serious. This was unusual for Mike, who always had a smile for everyone.

Despite the obvious toll the war was taking on him he never wanted to quit. Indeed he said, “I have a job to do and I intend to finish it.”

None of this will surprise any of you. Wars have always left their mark physically and mentally on those who fought them.  Our son wrote his last letter to say that he expected to be home in two weeks, you can imagine how thankful we were. We thought our prayers had been answered.  The next thing we knew there was an officer standing at our door to tell us that our son had been killed when his helicopter had been shot down.

As I stand here I must confess mixed emotions: a deep and lasting grief that never seems to go away, but also a deeply felt pride that our son thought enough of his country to make a supreme sacrifice.

I know I speak for my children and grand children, who are here and all of you when I say how much it means to have had the Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee conceive and create a permanent Memorial to our sons.

Here for as long as we will live we have a place to come, and a monument to see, a place which gives evidence of the sacrifices that were made, and long after we are gone it is fitting that all who pass by this place will pause and reflect on the Vietnam War and all who fought it.

The one good Friend of us all has eased my pain. My prayer is that he will ease your pain and keep you in his care.

I thank you.

Mr. Woodrow Hunter