PITTSBURG — A replica of the Vietnam Memorial that has stood at Pittsburg State University since 2004 is being removed because weather has worn away many of the names of the dead or missing.
Pittsburg State will replace the steel panels of the memorial with slabs of black granite, and the soldiers' names will be engraved exactly as they appear on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.
The half-scale memorial was one of three reproductions that were part of a national traveling exhibit. John Devitt, the creator of the moving wall, donated it to the university in 2004.
The memorial with the names of the fallen soldiers screen-printed onto the painted steel was meant to be displayed indoors. But the university installed it as part of its outdoor Veterans Memorial Amphitheater.
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Bad weather and baking sun wore away the names painted in white, and the wall was dotted with smears left by visitors or maintenance workers.
"They were never meant to be outside 24/7," said Brad Hodson, vice president for University Advancement, which oversees the memorial. "The sun just eats the paint away."
John Bartels and his crews have removed between 90 and 120 of the panels since it was installed. They were sent to Devitt, who repaired them for free.
Bartels said he was getting tired of visitors becoming upset when they saw the condition of the wall.
"When you're out here working on this, there's a lot of people that come," Bartels said. "And they're very emotionally charged.
"The old panels haven't worked out," he said. "And for the people that come out to see them, they deserve to see something good, something nice."
Private donors have given $250,000 to pay for the new black granite, which will be installed in time for Memorial Day ceremonies.
The current memorial contains 58,195 names but does not bear those added to the Washington D.C. memorial every year. When the new granite panels are introduced, the most current names will be included. The university will add more names as they are released by the government, Hodson said.
The new memorial will be dedicated at a ceremony on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.