Initially, the project was in the form of a challenge to the membership of Veterans of the Vietnam War (VVnW) Post 54, by former Commander Tom DalPezzo. It was his desire to create a memorial for the two counties where our members came from. Tom asked me if I would try to draw something for ideas to be used. Quickly upon arrival, we started planning fund raising ideas, as well as options for the site. Since our post is housed in Northampton we wished to place it there.
Mary Ann Dewalt-DalPezzo, Wayne Reenock and myself went to the borough council meeting to formally announce our intention to make this available. Many months passed as we discussed options for a site in town made available by the council. All appeared to be going well. It was not to be, a meeting in town much later would be the waterloo to the project. In an attempt to settle concerns to proceed, we told the council early on we would do this, in the event of citizen concerns being very heated. So we walked away from that experience, closing a chapter in the history of the project.
Several years passed with the project on hold, so much had gone into it. The one thing we did learn through the whole experience, was that we could not complete this alone. Late in 1994 our Post Secretary, Larry Deibert informed me he had the opportunity fo talk to the Commanders of other organizations. After a brief period of acceptance, the project was off and running again. This time the past mistakes would pay dividends, all of us took a great deal of pride in this unique alliance with a common goal. The organizations involved:
- Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. Post Pa. 54 Northampton Commander Jeff Snyder
- Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. Post Pa. 75, Macungie Commander Dean Dietrich
- Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 415, Lehigh Valley President Bruce Wesley
First the title was accepted for use, a board was elected by the leadership of the organizations to conduct business for the Memorial. They were:
- President: Larry Deibert
- Vice President: William E. Cooper, Jr.
- Treasurer: Dave Begley
- Secretary: Ronald Ruff
During the following months in the infancy of the project several fund raisers were conducted, individually and jointly by the organizations. Each has a measure of success. The three organizations built floats for public awareness at community Halloween parades all over the valley. Several dollars were made from this venture, in the form of prize money. We had our good ideas along the way, but we also, learned valuable lessons. With our leadership and the contractor, Wenz Memorials from Breinigsville who became much more than that, played a vital role beyond our needs. The firm was operated by Bill Wenz, his expertise and contacts became very valuable as the time passed. He also donated the benches at the site. At this time many more came on board;
- Larry Andrews, Commander VFW 9264, Macungie (who was already involved as a member of Post 75)
- Quartermaster: George Lengle
- Chaplain: Dave Tedesco
- 2nd Secretary: Dennis Hein
With a great deal of planning in place we still needed a site. Discussions placed this as a top priority. We needed to be able to break ground to show that this was to become a reality. It was suggested we contact the Macungie Veterans Home Association/Macungie VFW. Meetings were set up, with problems and concessions to be make, indeed they were. In a relatively short time we were granted permission to proceed. All of us with the Memorial are very grateful to them for accepting the Memorial at this site.
Preparations move along quickly, funds were steadily coming in. We knew we had set a goal for completion, but we had to formally begin as soon as possible. Finally we conducted ground breaking at the site on Sunday, October 13th, 1996. It was a beautiful day and well attended. The leadership remarks were noted for entry in the time capsule.
As we moved ahead, more and more fine people stepped forward to offer their services and skills. One was Bob Peters, a local sculptor from Macungie who offered to create a sculpture for the Memorial. We asked if he could create a pair of jungle boots with a helmet and dog tags draped over it. He agreed and his work brought a great deal of beauty to the Memorial.
William Persa, a local artist from Schnecksville, contacted Larry Deibert about what he could do for the project. Larry and I went to his home to see Bill and talk about his offer. We both were very impressed with his skills. As I viewed the works Bill made his intentions known, he pointed out this beautiful painting at the end of his studio. He offered us the right to use copies any way we wanted to. The dedication Memorial book has it for its cover. This was an extreme honor to have this use. Larry asked how much it was worth, his response was $10,000. What a feeling it was taking it with us to show the board members.
As the date of the dedications draws closer with the bricks placed and the other pieces added as time will allow, everything is falling into place. Even the addition fo the lights from Stanley Borascius of Breinisgsville, will help enhance what we have created. I am so proud to have played a small part in what this will become. I wish I could list all those that believed in us and our dream. For all our efforts were not possible to complete without our families allowing the time necessary to do our work. To the companies that believed in the project, and also our friends for their support as well. Everyone has been truly wonderful, our heartfelt thanks to one and all. I am very grateful for the association with other groups in this project. When our dream is completed I look forward to dealing with them down the road. They are all very special people that have sacrificed a great deal to see it through.
William E. Cooper, Jr.
Designer & Vice President
Email Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org