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Pueblo City Council could approve a name change for the Vietnam War Memorial next to the Slabs.
The park likely will be renamed to honor a Puebloan who served during the conflict.
After graduating from Centennial High School in 1967, Schmeling enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Vietnam a year later. Upon his return, Schmeling suffered from PTSD from his time overseas and was eventually forced to retire. From then on, Schmeling set his sights on making a difference each day up until his death on August 23, 2021.
He was a familiar face around the Pueblo Veteran's Affairs Clinic, ultimately earning an official appreciation certificate after volunteering for a staggering 13,500 hours over the course of 21 years. During that time he offered a helping hand in any way he could, including driving vets to the Denver VA Hospital for appointments and spending quality time with the residents of the VA nursing home.
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But volunteering wasn't enough for Schmeling. He was determined to do something bigger to honor the experiences of the servicemen and women who battled in Vietnam, many of whom were irreparably changed when they returned.
In the early 1990s, Schmeling began talking about building a Vietnam War memorial in Pueblo. With a sketch of what he envisioned the park to look like, he began fundraising for the project, asking for donations outside of stores and selling veteran t-shirts. Eventually, he took the project to City Council and by the fall of 1996 the Colorado Vietnam Memorial Park officially opened on the corner of 26th and Elizabeth St.
Ed Fox first got to know Schmeling when they were part of a group of veterans coordinating gift baskets for fellow veterans in need.
"Delbert did so much to help other veterans," Fox said, recounting his decades of volunteer work with the VA and other veterans organizations around Pueblo. "Delbert worked so hard and did so much for people."
After Schmeling's death, Fox and his wife went to place flowers at the memorial when they noticed that the park didn't have an official name other than the colloquial "The Slabs," referring to the concrete basketball courts.
"I thought that was a terrible name for a place honoring dead people," Fox said.
So he decided to propose an official name change. City Council and the mayor's office were immediately receptive to the proposal and initiated the process of seeing to the renaming, Fox said.
Brainstorming the possible new name, Fox knew it would only be right to honor the man primarily responsible for the memorial's existence.
"Nobody fought for that park more than Delbert," he said. "He's always been very helpful to lots of vets and I think that was his project."
City Councilman Larry Atencio supports the name change and hopes to have a dedication ceremony to mark the occasion in the near future.
While there's no exact timeline for this process, Atencio said, "I would think in the next few weeks or so. It shouldn't take that long."
Contact Chieftain reporter Lacey Latch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @laceylatch.
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo City Council could rename Vietnam War Memorial for local vet