Welcome Home Memorial
On July 4th, 2003 Vietnam veterans got a big "welcome home" in the Grand Valley. The man responsible for that welcome home wants to make the gesture permanent. Last week, Jim Doody, founder of the Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial Park, walked the grounds in Fruita with sculptor Richard Arnold of Telluride.
"The way I envision it, is we'll have a mother and father welcoming home their service person returning home from a tour of duty," Doody said. He was talking about a bronze sculpture that Arnold, a Vietnam veteran, has agreed to create for the park. Doody, Arnold, and memorial park board member Wayne Telford discussed what a soldier might be carrying and how the parents might look upon their child returning home. Exactly how it turns out will be up to Arnold, the sculptor. But Arnold has strict marching orders on the message he's suppose to be delivering. "It will represent the welcome home many veterans were denied thirty years ago," Doody said. The new sculpture will sit right next to the Huey helicopter memorial that was unveiled two summers ago. That project was created over a five-year time frame through community donations. A Huey helicopter, which rests atop a 15 foot steel brace, was hauled in from Little Rock, Ark. It sits atop a 60-foot by 40-foot platform. The walls of that platform are lined with black granite panels etched with the names of Vietnam veterans.
Doody came up with the idea for the memorial almost 7 years ago. He wanted to do it in honor of all veterans, most importantly, his older brother, Thomas Doody, killed in action while flying a helicopter over Laos in 1971.
Thousands attended the Fourth of July event unveiling the memorial - many of them veterans. The event was coined a "welcome home" for Vietnam veterans who never received a welcome home upon their return from service. It's a phrase that's stuck among veterans of that war, said Telford, who is also a Vietnam veteran. "Welcome home," he said. "That's what we say to each other. When we came home, we didn't get a welcome home. The only welcome home many of them received, they said, was from families they returned home to, which they said adds to the significance of the new sculpture. "There's still a lot of emotion," Telford said. "There always will be". That's why Arnold does what he does. Arnold, who made a career as a builder and airport manager, didn't take up sculpting until later in life. A few years ago, he was asked to create a Vietnam veteran's memorial in Mobile, Ala. "I just happened to be an artist who is also a Vietnam vet," Arnold said. "What do you do with all the energy and emotion? You channel it".
Doody has high hopes for the new addition to the memorial that he made happen.
"I can just envision it," Doody said. "It will top this whole thing off". Organizers say the life-size sculpture, which they hope to complete by summer of 2006
Is going to cost about $50,000.00. The veteran's organization, "Help Hospitalized Veterans," has already contributed $5,000.00 for the project.
Josh Nichols Free Press Staff Writer