Planned Vietnam veterans monument finds a home; additional funding sought

WASHINGTON COUNTY – A planned monument paying tribute to Vietnam veterans has found a unique home at one Southern Utah retail business.

Operations are underway to build and erect a monument to be placed at Zion Harley Davidson, 2345 N. Canyon Blvd. in Washington City, but additional funding is needed to fulfill one woman’s dream of seeing it come to fruition.

Judith Cooley, a property manager in St. George, said she was married to a veteran who served three tours in Vietnam. Cooley’s husband died, she said, because of complications related to exposure to Agent Orange – an herbicide used by the United States Military as part of an herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War – or Agent Orange poisoning.

He loved his country,” Cooley said of her late husband. “He did whatever he could.”

Though the attitude in America toward Vietnam veterans is starting to change, Cooley said, when her husband came home, he got nothing but garbage. The hostile welcome was not unique to her husband, she said.

St. George resident Nikki Watterson said her father served in Vietnam. She related the story of him getting off the plane from Vietnam and into a car that subsequently broke down. Rather than receiving help, Watterson said, her father, being a veteran of the unpopular engagement, was refused service.

“I don’t know what more they had to give,” Cooley said, “other than their life before somebody respected and recognized them.”

Both Cooley and Watterson hope to erect the monument, which will include names of Vietnam veterans both living and deceased, in order to honor their sacrifice and service.

“My father desperately wants to see this happen before he dies,” Watterson said.

For Cooley’s husband, the opportunity to see that honor has passed, but, she said, maybe her grandkids will be able to witness it.

“My grandson still cries and says that he misses his grandpa,” Cooley said. “Their families will remember, but it needs to go beyond that.”

The monument has been designed and some funding has already been pledged, Cooley said. Until recently, the most difficult obstacle has been finding a site for the placement of the monument.

Initially finding a suitable place, one that provided easy access for anyone wishing to visit the proposed monument, was met with some opposition until a unique idea was put forth by Dan Greathouse, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Southern Utah Chapter 961.

The proposed idea was to approach Zion Harley Davidson to see if they would be a willing host site for the monument.

“We were approached about a month ago,” Laura Lavigne, general manager of Zion Harley Davidson, said, “to see if we were interested.”

After emailing the owners of the motorcycle retail store, Lavigne was told that the owners thought it would be nice to have on their site and that it was a great way for them to support the troops and military veterans and to provide a good place where many veterans and their families can find closure.

“We are very honored to be a part of this,” Lavigne said. “It is kind of an awesome fit. A lot of our veterans love motorcycles.”

Lavigne added that they are excited about the project and hope to help Cooley in her efforts to fund the monument.

Now that the monument has a home, Cooley is hopeful that the other pieces will fall into place, including additional funding.

In order to help fund the monument, a yard sale fundraiser has been planned for June 27 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lin’s Market parking lot, 1930 Sunset Blvd., in St. George. In addition to yard sale items, there will be commemorative items and donation drawings for prizes, Cooley said.

A monument fund has also been set up at the Cache Valley Bank under “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,” where people can donate. Cooley has filed for nonprofit status and has a tax number issued from the state of Utah, she said.

“All gave some and some gave all,” Cooley said, quoting a popular phrase honoring veterans, “and some are still giving.”

Resources

  • For more information or to donate, contact Judith Cooley | Telephone 435-705-9726

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