MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - There's a new addition on the grounds of the Central Alabama VA hospital in Montgomery and there's a lot of meaning behind its location.
On Veterans Day, the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) hosted a dedication ceremony for a new Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Montgomery campus on Perry Hill Road.
The monument bears the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 607 worked to make the permanent tribute a reality, raising the funds and working with CAVHCS to get the location approved. The monument is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. and is similar to two other memorials the chapter has worked to erect in nearby counties.
"Through the special dedication of this memorial, we pay tribute to the men and women of the Vietnam War. I want to thank the Vietnam Veterans of America for choosing this site as the location for the memorial that honors Montgomery County's Vietnam veterans," said CAVHCS Interim Director Traci Solt. "This year, our nation begins the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War."
There are 465,000 veterans living in Alabama and approximately 33,000 of them are Vietnam veterans. Dozens of vets came out for the patriotic event Wednesday to honor those who did not return home.
As the names of their fallen comrades were read during the ceremony, several Vietnam veterans in attendance knelt down and gripped the stone wall dedicated in their honor with their heads bowed.
"We are leaving our mark," said David Payne, president of Chapter 607. "These monuments are living history of the cost of freedom."
"The monument is a great thing, something long, long overdue. Some gave some, some gave all. This is in recognition of those that gave all," added veteran Selma Russell.
The memorial was placed near the Primary Care entrance at the Montgomery hospital where thousands of vets go to receive treatment and that was done for a reason.
"They're going to be our watch dogs, our watchmen. They're going to be the soldiers in the sky guarding that front door so that everyone who walks through that front door knows that we're watching you- not the vets but the people that work here. The directors, the assistant directors, the nurses, doctors, janitors- when you walk through these doors our eyes are on you," Payne said.
The local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America is also raising funds for a memorial at the Tuskegee VA campus and a women's monument at the Montgomery campus.