Several hundred people gathered Sunday afternoon on the banks of the Arkansas River for a private dedication of the Vietnamese American Community Memorial.
The memorial honors the sacrifices of Americans and South Vietnamese who fought the communist North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War.
It depicts two soldiers side by side, one American and one Vietnamese.
“We invite everybody from the Vietnamese community, Catholics, Americans,” said Chinh Pham, one of the organizers for Sunday’s event.
The hourlong dedication Sunday was particularly significant because Monday is the anniversary of when Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was captured by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front on April 30, 1975. Saigon’s fall marked the end of the Vietnam War.
The memorial was paid for by members of Wichita’s South Vietnamese community.
Babs Mellor, the lead sculptor on the project, said she was pleased with the turnout.
“They like it so much,” Mellor said as people lined up to have their photos taken in front of the sculpture.
“I started out with just a piece of clay as mud. I had a wonderful design that Joe Nguyen gave me. We used live models. The American soldier standing is 6-foot-4; the Vietnamese soldier is seated on a granite rock.”
Sunday’s ceremony was mostly in Vietnamese and featured traditional music. Veterans wore their uniforms and some women wore traditional long Vietnamese dresses. Veterans marched in and saluted the flags. Anthems – South Vietnamese and American – were played. The South Vietnamese flag was lowered to half-staff.
The memorial includes a plaque – one side written in English, the other in Vietnamese – that notes the sacrifices of Americans and South Vietnamese who fought together against the North Vietnamese.
The project, three years in the making, has been controversial because some American veterans objected to it being placed in Veterans Memorial Park. As a result, the memorial is near, but not in, Veterans Memorial Park.
A public dedication of the memorial has been scheduled for July.