BIRTH OF A MEMORIAL

VIETNAM MEMORIAL MONUMENT - CORONADO, CA
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In the early 1990’s a Vietnam Veteran, Warrant Officer Ralph Fries, happened upon the Vietnam “Traveling Wall” while trucking through Colorado. This traveling wall displayed the names of those who died in Vietnam in the same manner as the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., with row on row of names only.

This Veteran developed the concept that a memorial which listed not only the names of the individuals, but their date of passing and the unit to which they were attached would provide additional meaning to a display. On his own, he set out to develop the design and concept of such a memorial. The location and funding were yet to be addressed.

In the mid 1990’s a PBR (Patrol Boat River) had been put on display at CISM (Counseil International du Sport Militare) Field at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, along with an obelisk, which displayed the names of those Navy men who died in support of Gamewarden operations in the rivers and deltas of Vietnam.

In 1997 the son of a Vietnam Veteran, LCDR Robert N. Geis happened to spot a PCF (Patrol Craft Fast-PCF 104)) in a salvage yard at the Naval Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington. He recognized the boat as the same type his father, LCDR Neil Geis had served with in 1969/1970 on the staff of Coastal Squadron One. Within two weeks, Neil had taken pictures of the find and presented them for use during the PCF-104 procurement efforts.

Efforts were then undertaken to procure the boat and move it to San Diego where it could serve as a monument to those who served on them. Still, without an approved location for such a monument, the veterans moved forward to save PCF-104 from salvage while negotiating for a place to put it in San Diego.

About this same time, members of the Mobile Riverine Force Association (MRFA) were trying to save a Command Communications Boat (CCB) which was in disrepair in a failing patrol boat museum in the San Francisco Bay area. At different points in time the Swift Boat memorial came together with the existing PBR Memorial and the Unit Memorial Monument concept. The overall memorial was joined by the support of the Swift Boat Sailors Association; the Mobile Riverine Force Association and the Gamewardens of Vietnam. A unified concept was submitted to the Navy and ultimately approved in a Memorandum of Understanding in June 1999.

Procurement, movement and restoration of the boats in the small boat display are stories unto themselves. They currently rest in a location reminiscent of coordinated close-in river operations, pointing toward the memorial wall.

In the summer of 2000, the existing PBR and obelisk were moved to their current site. The CISM Field site was dedicated in November 2000 as was PCF 104. Preceding this dedication there was extensive work done by the veterans to excavate and pour pads for the resting places of the three boats. Also, the two-foot deep foundation for the yet-to-be-built Monument Wall was formed, reinforced and poured.

The CCB was moved to San Diego in January 2001 and was dedicated in MRFA ceremony in June 2002. Work commenced on erecting the Memorial Wall in December 2001 and the final pour completed in April 2002.

The Vietnam Unit Memorial Monument Fund was incorporated in December 2002.

In July 2004, twenty six stainless steel panels were installed on the Wall bearing the names of the 2,564 sailors who died supporting Naval operations in Vietnam.

The Memorial was dedicated in formal ceremony 21 May 2005