By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board has given its blessing for a Vietnam veterans memorial at Tom Prince Memorial Park.
Chris Larson, commander of the Russell-Toycen American Legion Post 131, and William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator for the Colfax school district and a retired Command Sergeant Major with the United States Army, spoke to the village board at the June 11 meeting about the Vietnam veterans memorial.
Mike Hansen, who was village president in 1983, proposed that the park be dedicated to the veterans of the Vietnam war, and the village board approved it, Yingst said.
In the March 3, 1983, Colfax Messenger, it was reported under the headline, “Trustees dedicate Colfax park to Vietnam veterans” that the village board at the February 28 meeting had officially named the softball field on state Highway 170 the Colfax Area Recreational Park and had dedicated it to the veterans of the Vietnam war. Mike Hansen, village president, had suggested the park be dedicated to the Vietnam veterans because he said they were the most forgotten and unthanked American soldiers.
The Colfax Messenger came upon the information about the ball park being dedicated to the veterans of Vietnam while doing the weekly “Out of the Past” feature and contacted Yingst, knowing he is a veteran himself and also knowing that at the annual Veterans Day program at Colfax High School in November, Yingst makes a special point of acknowledging the Vietnam veterans.
“I’d like to see it at the park,” Larson told the village board.
Yingst said he has spoken to the American Legion members and the AmVets, and local veterans are in favor of doing the project.
Most of the soldiers in Vietnam had been drafted, and they were treated horribly when they returned home, Yingst said.
The Vietnam veterans suffered an injustice from our society, he said.
The Vietnam veterans memorial at Tom Prince Memorial Park would provide a show of respect for the Vietnam veterans from the Colfax community and from surrounding communities, Yingst said.
The memorial would be made from maintenance-free materials with machines recently purchased for the school district’s Science Technology Engineering and Math program (STEM) which can make signs four feet by four feet and four feet by eight feet, he said, adding he has talked to the technology education teacher about the project, and the sign could be made of steel so it would be durable and maintenance-free.
Yingst said he also envisions some type of granite marker or a bench, with a symbol of the Vietnam war, such as a Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter (Huey) as well as the insignia for each branch of the military.
The sign is “doable” in the near term, but the other part of the Vietnam veterans memorial could take a while, he said.
Yingst said he anticipated the granite portion of the memorial could cost somewhere in the $10,000 range.
The American Legion and the AmVets have said they would be interested in fund raising for the memorial, Yingst noted.
Yingst and Larson said they were asking the village board for permission to put a memorial to the Vietnam veterans at Tom Prince Memorial Park, as per the village board’s wishes in 1983, since the park is village property.
“We are not asking to change the name of the park,” Yingst said, adding that the village also will not be asked for a financial contribution for the memorial.
Students in the Colfax school district will be at school August 29 and 30 for team-building activities, and Yingst said the plan was to have a dedication ceremony on one of those days, to have the students attend, to have the high school and middle school bands perform and to invite community members and Vietnam veterans from around the area as well as dignitaries such as state Senator Terry Moulton, state Representative Rob Summerfield, and U.S. Congressman Ron Kind.
August 29 and 30 are a Wednesday and a Thursday, but most of the Vietnam veterans are retired now, Yingst said.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved allowing the Vietnam veterans memorial to be placed at Tom Prince Memorial Park. The motion stated the village board would support the project “philosophically and financially.”
“It’s a win-win-win deal,” said Gary Stene, village president.
Anyone who might be interested in making a financial contribution to the Vietnam veterans memorial at Tom Prince Memorial Park can contact Yingst at 715-962-3773.
Those who are interesting in making a financial contribution also can contact LeAnn Ralph at the Colfax Messenger at 715-962-3535.