Vietnam War memorial a step closer to reality

Dana Point has become the third city in south Orange County to agree to help Vietnam War veterans Steve Colwell and Nick Warr create a Vietnam War memorial at Camp Pendleton.

The two veterans have worked for three years on the design of the monument, planned for the memorial garden at Camp San Mateo, and to identify the names of 2,706 Marines and sailors with the 5th Marine Regiment who died in Vietnam.

Last week, Colwell took his plea to the Dana Point City Council and asked the city for financial support. The Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group created and maintains the garden.

In a unanimous vote, the council agreed to give $10,000 to help with building the six-panel granite monument, which is expected to cost nearly $400,000. Three months ago, San Clemente approved $5,000, and Rancho Santa Margarita came on board with $2,500 in early 2016.

“I’m honored that the city of Dana Point is helping with the memorial,” Councilman Rick Viczorek, who served in the Marine Corps and is now a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, said Tuesday. “It’s been 50 years. There are monuments to Operation Iraqi Freedom and to Operation Enduring Freedom but not for Marines who served in Vietnam.”

Colwell and Warr have raised $180,000 so far. Construction is scheduled to begin Aug. 1 in Vermont, and installation in the Camp Pendleton garden is planned for Memorial Day 2018.

The garden, a tribute to the Fighting 5th Marine Regiment, is home to Marines who have died in action but also a place of peace and reflection for those who remember them. Two monuments there honor Marines and sailors who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But there was nothing recognizing those who lost their lives fighting in Vietnam, Colwell told the council. Colwell, 72, served as an officer with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.

Viczorek described his homecoming from deployment in Iraq. He said he was met in the middle of the night by about 40 Patriot Guard…

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