A new memorial honoring Marines and sailors who were killed in Vietnam is en route to Camp Pendleton, California, where it will join existing memorials to Marines who had lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 50-ton monument is traveling nearly 3,000 miles from Rock of Ages, a granite quarry in Barre, Vermont, to Oceanside, California. It is being transported in sections on three flatbed trucks, each driven by a veteran, according to a press release.
The monument, named the 5th Marines Vietnam Memorial, pays homage to the 2,706 Marines and sailors from the 5th Marine Regiment who were killed in action during the Vietnam War.
Patriot Guard Riders escort three flatbed tractor-trailers transporting the memorial from Rock of Ages, a granite quarry in Barre, Vermont, to Camp Pendleton, California on March 22. (Rock of Ages)
The names of the 5th Marines who died in Vietnam are included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., but until now, their sacrifice has not been recognized with any memorial of its own. Since 2014, Vietnam veterans Steve Colwell, 74, and Nick Warr, 73, have been working to change that, according to the Orange County Register.
Colwell and Warr developed the idea for the memorial after visiting the Camp San Mateo Memorial Garden at Camp Pendleton. The garden features two memorials in honor of Marines killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to Colwell and Warr’s surprise, there was no memorial for Marines killed in Vietnam.
“I feel strongly there should be a representation for the Marines and sailors who were killed in Vietnam,” Colwell told OCR. “These young men raised their hands and enlisted in the Marine Corps for an unpopular war.”
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For the past four years, Colwell and Warr have spearheaded a project to track down the names of the 5th Marines killed in Vietnam and raise money for a memorial. Through a combination of public and private funds, the 5th Marines Vietnam Memorial has raised nearly $340,000 of its $400,000 goal.
The memorial, which includes six double-sided granite “name panels” and a black obelisk with the image of the iconic “Helmet, Rifle, Bayonet and Boots” etched on all four sides, was crafted in Vermont and is set to arrive at Camp Pendleton on March 29, according to the memorial’s website.
Three flatbed tractor-trailers hauled the 5th Marines Vietnam Memorial on a 3,000-mile, cross-country trip to the memorial's new home in Oceanside, California. (Rock of Ages)
It will be installed in the Camp San Mateo Memorial Garden during a ceremony on Memorial Day, May 28, according to the news release.
The 5th Marine Regiment is the most highly decorated infantry regiment in the history of the U.S. Marines, according to the memorial website. Based at Camp Pendleton, the regiment first deployed in WWI. It served in Vietnam from May 1966 to April 1971, fighting in a number of major battles from Operation Prairie to the Battle of Hanoi.
Like many other military units, the 5th Marine Regiment did not receive a warm welcome upon returning home from Vietnam.