Unlike those for World War II or the Civil War or the Revolutionary War, there had been no official memorials in Ridgefield to commemorate the veterans of the Vietnam War before this weekend.
Saturday afternoon, the town of Ridgefield unveiled a mural by artists Tina Sturges and Gary Lichtenstein to show its appreciation for the veterans who gave their lives in part or in full to the action in Vietnam – a good-sized crowd gathered in the Town Hall parking lot to see the dedication.
A large flag adorned Town Hall in the front, and the sun came out for the few hours of the ceremony.
“Ridgefield has always supported its veterans,” said George Besse of the American Legion. “Today’s just a continuation of that support.”
Several speakers gave solemn and inspiring tribute to the men (and their families) who fought in Vietnam and who served in the military during that time.
The work, commissioned by the Ridgefield Military Pride Committee, features the names of those who served during that time either in Vietnam or at home.
“This is an event so long overdue for our Vets,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi.
With presence from the Marine Corps League and the American Legion, as well as many town officials, the dedication opened into welcome arms.
“The mural here today is a testimonial to those who served,” said Mark McMahon of the Marine Corps League, “and for the 58 thousand who didn’t have a homecoming.”
McMahon and Besse spoke of their time in the military and of their experiences coming home from the Vietnam War.
They both also took the opportunity to speak about anti-war sentiment during that time, Besse calling it “a dark period in American patriotism” and McMahon noting a lack of American support for military personnel at the time.
The keynote speaker, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Paul Bucha, spoke inspiringly about the potential within all people who come across such difficult times as the Vietnam War, including the actions of his personal heroine, he said, Rosa Parks.
“We should be more respectful of the potential we have,” Bucha said, “not the trinkets we wear."
There was no lack of respect, however, among the hundred or so people in attendance downtown, for the blue ribbon around Bucha’s neck – Bucha himself remarked on the importance the honor holds for him and for anyone he comes across with the same.
The mural will hang in Town Hall, and the names of more Vietnam War veterans will be added over time.