Jerry Hubbs was wearing a Vietnam War cap filled with pins and a jacket from the veterans group he is a part of — the U.S. Naval Support Activity Da Nang, Vietnam. He was among the many veterans on a cold Thursday afternoon ready to witness a historic groundbreaking in Louisville.
Hubbs, 81, was in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Decades ago, his crew was stationed in Da Nang and he was among the officers supporting the Marine Corps who salvaged wrecked ships. But this week, he was in Louisville to watch as the Tri Ân Foundation, a local group that pushes to honor American and Vietnamese veterans of the Vietnam War, take a key step toward building a new monument.
"I've always wanted to hear the Vietnamese say 'Thank you for your service,' and that's what this is," Hubbs said. "Tri Ân. That means deep gratitude for defending freedom."
Veterans and members of the Vietnamese community gathered at the Jeffersontown Veterans Memorial Park for an early look at a monument that will serve as a thank you to Hubbs and all the other solders who fought in the Vietnam War. Work on the installment is expected to be done by summer of next year, according to Tim Mulloy, a Tri Ân Foundation member.
The idea was originated by Yung Nguyen, an immigrant of Vietnam, who told Jeffersontown Mayor Bill Dieurf more than nine years ago that he wanted to thank the people that fought for their freedom. Dieruf recalled Nguyen said "we have a vision of thanking the men and women that fought for our freedom in our country."
The project was halted during in 2021 when Vietnam was put under lockdown after COVID-19 cases rose, which caused granite production to stop. Construction is now set to begin Monday though, Mulloy said, using 600,000 pounds (270 tons) of granite that's been imported from Vietnam.
The monument will be funded solely through donations. The nonprofit has already raised $1.8 million, according to its website, but the group hopes to raise a total of $2.2 million.
Slovenian architect Grega Vezjak is behind the monument's design, which the foundation said was chosen from a competition that included 128 entries from 29 counties.
The criteria used to choose the winner was a "monument that is meaningful, unique, dramatic, and timeless to commemorate those who had fought and sacrificed during the Vietnam War," the website said.
When it's finished, the installment will be an immersive experience where visitors can walk along a pathway made up of the granite floors and pictures from the war. On the walls there will be QR codes that show soldiers' stories when scanned. It will also have eight pillars, representing the eight countries that allied to fight communism, including South Vietnam.
The monument is meant to serve as a space of education and reflection, organizers said. Now, Hubbs and more than a thousand other people who fought in the war will get the recognition they've been waiting for, including retired Maj. Gen. Michael W. Davidson, who said the memorial is "past due."
"We left a piece of ourselves in Vietnam when we came back. But we brought back a piece of Vietnam with us. And it's with us still every day in a very positive way. Because when you go to war for your country, you become an equity owner in your country. And you start to think and act and feel like an equity owner in America. That's what we got all of us by serving in Vietnam," Davidson said.
Reach Ana Alvarez Briñez at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter @SoyAnaAlvarez.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: What planned Louisville Vietnam War monument means to local veterans