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Akron, OH 44301


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Monument To Vietnam Vets

By Bill Lilley
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published on Friday, Jan 09, 2009


Just a portion of the base for the monument has been laid at the Clinton Cemetery. Yet Chell Rossi is convinced she can already feel the emotion the Ohio Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Park will evoke when it is dedicated May 17. Both the theme and the scale of the 125-foot long black granite wall promise to overwhelm.

''If you don't cry when you get there, there is something wrong,'' Rossi said. ''Once the people see it, they will be overwhelmed.'' She is confident that the public will ''fall in love'' with the memorial park. ''It's a very special place and a very special memorial,'' Rossi said. ''It's the perfect place and it's the perfect time for this project.''

It has been a long road to the memorial park since a committee formed in 2005 to help bring it to fruition. ''It started out as a memorial just to Vietnam because those guys never got their due,'' said Rossi, who is vice president of the committee. ''It truly is a long overdue mission. ''But then we were approached by a lot of other veterans who asked, 'Why not me? I fought in Korea.' ''

Rossi said the committee decided to keep the focus of the memorial on Vietnam by listing the names of the 3,094 Ohio men and one woman nurse Sharon Lane of Canton who died in that conflict. But other conflicts will be remembered, too, on separate panels. ''It's not just for Vietnam and it's not just for Summit County,'' Rossi said. ''It's for all the wars Ohio has been involved in from the War of 1812 through the current conflict.''

The Clinton Cemetery was selected as the site for the memorial after other locales including Mansfield and New Franklin were considered. The Cemetery Association of Clinton agreed to donate two acres of its cemetery land on Cleveland-Massillon Road for the memorial to be built on.

''Being at a cemetery, we'll never have to worry about a big-box store coming in next door,'' Rossi said. ''It truly was the perfect site, and not just because of that.'' The memorial is being constructed by Summit Memorials on West Wilbeth Road. Ken Noon of Summit Memorials said his first concern was obtaining the 50 21/2-foot long panels of black granite needed to construct the wall. ''There are only three places in the world where you can get pure black granite India, China and Africa,'' Noon said. ''Black granite was chosen because it's just like the [Vietnam Wall] in Washington.''

The 50 panels, standing 6 feet tall and weighing nearly 2,000 pounds each, were ordered through a quarry in India a year ago and just arrived at Summit Memorials shortly before Thanksgiving. Noon has begun the arduous task of engraving the 3,095 names of those who died in Vietnam in alphabetical order on the panels, along with soldier portraits to mark the other conflicts. ''We're able to handle it along with our daily workload because we're one of the few monument companies with two sandblasters to do the engraving,'' Noon said.

The memorial park is expected to cost $1.7 million of which $800,000 has been raised. Noon said there will be 32 benches, sponsored by various groups, around the park. There will also be a 6-foot-tall Gold Star Mothers black granite statue to honor the mothers of soldiers along with an 8-foot tall granite monument shaped like Ohio at the front of the park. Future plans call for the construction of a reflection pond and the installation of military helicopters and other statues. Noon said he expects the base for the wall to be completed in early March. With about a quarter of the engraving work completed, Moon said, they hope to complete that task in April.

The GAR Foundation has donated $30,000 to begin a $475,000 endowment fund to maintain the memorial. Other financial help has been offered by the Corbin Foundation of Akron, Dominion Foundation, the Welty Family Foundation, Akron Community Foundation, FirstEnergy Foundation and the Summit County Trails & Greenway/Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition. Electrical work, excavation and other services have been provided by area companies free of charge.

Memorial bricks engraved with the names of servicemen who served in all wars and all branches of service will pave the way to the center of the park. ''You can see the interest growing with each step,'' said Rossi, a retired stockbroker with Merrill Lynch in Akron. She points to the 200 people who attended the February 2007 site dedication and the 1,000 who attended the groundbreaking in August 2007. ''I'm confident that once the people see what a wonderful memorial it is we'll have no trouble raising the rest of the money'' for the construction, Rossi said.

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