November 7, 2017 10:38:53 AM
TUPELO -- A Mississippi community has dedicated its own smaller-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that's in the nation's capital.
Veterans, local residents and elected officials held a ceremony Thursday at Veterans Park in Tupelo, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.
The memorial is 60 percent the size of the one in Washington with the same design -- two black granite walls forming a wide angle. They are inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 Americans killed or missing in Vietnam.
Jerry Smith of Saltillo was drafted into the Army and served in 1969 and 1970, spending most of that time in Vietnam. On Thursday, he searched the walls for the names of two soldiers from his hometown who were killed in the war -- Charles Elbert Finney and Larry Edward Hand
"It's long overdue," Smith said of the memorial.
The state of Mississippi paid $750,000 of the roughly $1 million cost, with the rest paid in about equal parts from private donors and the city of Tupelo.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said the monument was born from the vision and initiative of private citizens, primarily volunteers from nearby Itawamba County. One of the volunteers, Janie Alexander, is credited locally as a key figure behind the initial idea and the success of early fundraising. She said Thursday was one of the happiest days of her life, but she sought to deflect attention from herself.
"It's about the names, the stories," Alexander said.
Traveling walls have toured the United States. The one in Tupelo is permanent.
John Rowan, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said the monument is "perfect" because it shows equality: Names of citizens alongside those of immigrants, names of privates alongside those of high rank, all branches of services together, with no distinction.
"It personalized the war," Rowan said. "It's all of America on that wall. Everybody."
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