LANSING (AP) Hundreds of people gathered near the Capitol yesterday for the dedication of Michigan”s new Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a graceful steel arc that honors the 2,654 state men and women who were lost in the war.
“It”s beautiful, a nice tribute,” said Ken Diegel, 56, of Newport, who served two years in Vietnam with a Marine Corps unit that removed mines. “Each time I go to a wall I get a different feeling. But more and more, it”s a feeling of belonging and healing.”
Michael Hoa Viola-Vu, a native of Vietnam, attended with his family. Viola-Vu was a 14-year-old orphan when he was airlifted from Saigon in 1975 by U.S. troops. He was adopted by an American family and now lives in Holland.
“Many people sacrificed for our freedom, for this,” he said, pointing to his two young daughters. “It”s a very precious gift.”
The crowd was sometimes celebratory, as when Peter Lemon Michigan”s only surviving Vietnam recipient of the Medal of Honor exhorted everyone to join hands and sing “God Bless America.”
But it was silent as a box of dog tags was interned at the monument, accompanied by a lone trumpeter playing taps. Shortly afterward, four military helicopters flew over the ceremony in formation.
Around 400,000 people from Michigan served during the Vietnam War, Gov. John Engler said in a tribute that was televised because he is attending a conference in Japan. With the monument, those people will not be forgotten, Engler said.
“No one will see this memorial without being profoundly moved,” he said.
Visitors placed flowers and photographs yesterday along the 120-foot monument, which bears plaques with the names of those who died or are missing.
Among those at the monument was the family of Roland Pineau, a Navy pilot from Royal Oak who was shot down in Vietnam. Pineau, who was 38 when he was shot down, has never been found.
Pineau”s parents, two brothers and wife have died, but his three sisters continue to hope that searchers will find his remains.
One sister, 61-year-old Mary Pineau, said she plans to go to Vietnam someday and collect soil from the mountain where his plane was believed to have crashed.