'A lot of memories': IUP re-dedicates Vietnam memorial 40 years later

Nov. 11—INDIANA, Pa. — Forty years after dedicating the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the group of Veteran's Club members gathered again on Friday to re-dedicated the monument in front of Pierce Hall, the home of IUP's ROTC.

"They did a wonderful job moving that monument and the way they cleaned it up," club member Bob Chess said.

He was one of the original seven who proposed that the memorial be placed on campus and worked to get that dream accomplished.

Ever since, the monument has stood near Leonard and Keith halls.

However, when both were demolished to make way for the John J. and Char Kopchick Hall, the large stone and plaque needed a new home.

Bert Manzlak, another member of the group, said it was a shame to see the memorial surrounded by construction equipment and behind a fence.

That's why the group reached out to the university about moving the tribute.

"They gave us a ton of support," Robert Gault Jr. said.

The rest of the former club members agreed, adding that IUP was quite helpful initially and continued to be great to work with.

'Wanted to step up'

Gault was president of the vets group in the 1980s and, according to member Irwin Ray, it was Gault and his wife, Angie, who proposed the monument in the first place.

"We wanted to step up and say, 'Hey, thank you,' " Gault said.

Friday's event coincided with Veterans Day and due to inclement weather was held inside Pierce Hall.

Gault served as master of ceremonies, providing background on the group and the memorial — and introducing the day's honored speakers.

The event began with a presentation of the colors by the IUP ROTC Color Guard, followed by comments from Gault and an introduction by Riley David, president of the school's veterans fraternity Rho Tau Chi — the spiritual successor to the veterans club.

"I am in awe of all of your hard work," she said.

Michael Driscoll, IUP president, also spoke, thanking the group members for their efforts and sharing his own memories of being a teenager during the Vietnam conflict.

Driscoll said he recalled military members being rejected when they arrived home after serving.

"This memorial goes counter to that line of thinking," he said.

Others who spoke include retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Stas and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Barry Gasdek.

Both veterans shared their personal experiences of serving in Vietnam as well as their thoughts on the memorial.

Greg Young, an Indiana native and Vietnam veteran, said he enjoyed the ceremony — describing it as "terrific."

He and his wife, Bonnie, attended together.

"Today just brought back a lot of memories," said Young, a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1968 to 1972 and was deployed to Vietnam.

"Their recognition is long overdue," Bonnie Young said.

The memorial is located to the right of Pierce Hall's main entrance.

The plaque attached to it reads "In honor of the patriotic men and women who served their country in the Vietnam war and in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice."

"This is a better home," Chess said.