Vietnam highway memorial proposed

April 24, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

The local Vietnam Veterans of America group wants the state to rename the eight-mile stretch of Route 24 from Aberdeen Proving Ground to the U.S. 1 bypass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Parkway and to allow the construction of a privately funded monument at one end of the route.

Members of Northeastern Maryland Chapter 588 appeared before the Harford County Council on Tuesday seeking a resolution urging the state Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transportation Commission to approve the proposal.

Frank Stacey, chapter president, said the group has been looking for a way to honor Harford County residents who served in the war.

The 3-year-old chapter has 157 members, but Mr. Stacey estimates that about 7,000 Vietnam veterans live or have lived in Harford County.

He said the chapter wants to build a monument on the state-owned open space west of Bel Air where Route 24 merges into the bypass.

As part of the memorial, planners envision a helicopter and stone markers bearing the names of the 33 Harford County residents killed in the war.

"The total cost to the county would be zero," Frank Eurice said in asking for the council's endorsement.

He said that the monument could be funded through private donations if the state would allow use of the land.

Mr. Stacey said that putting a memorial on the triangular easement bounded by the Route 24 ramps and U.S. 1 would not require cutting down any trees or significantly changing the grading of the land.

He said an already-cleared portion of the grounds could be developed into a small parking area.

The state cannot consider a formal proposal until the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

With the 20th anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam next year, Mr. Eurice said, it would be a fitting time to honor the men and women who served there.

About 58,000 U.S. service members died in Vietnam between 1959 and 1973.

The council delayed a vote on the resolution until May 3. But some council members voiced preliminary support.

"I will do all I can to make this a reality," said Philip J. Barker, D-District F, a Korean War veteran.

Harford County Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson said the proposal could be Harford's role in a national "purging of our souls" over the Vietnam era.

"We all carry a corporate guilt for those who laid down their lives and for those who came home in body bags," he said.

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