Vietnam Veterans Memorial gets Phase 1 nod from La Crosse Parks Board
Concerns about overshadowing other memorials delays decision on flags and lighting
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Phase 1 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial got a unanimous salute to proceed Thursday after La Crosse Parks Board members discussed concerns that its design might overshadow other memorials at Veterans Freedom Park.
Phase 1 will include a wall inscribed with the names of the 1,239 Wisconsin residents killed in Vietnam, including 28 from La Crosse, with a decision on including an American flag and lighting postponed.
Parks and Forestry Supervisor Dan Trussoni said his department fully supports the proposed memorial, adding, “I do have a few concerns with the design … overshadowing the other monuments.”
The final Vietnam memorial, the brainchild of Holmen High School grad Jordan Briskey, would include eight other flags of military branches, as well as lighting and plantings.
Addressing the board, Briskey said it is intended to honor troops who “ran into hell to face down hell” at a time when they encountered ridicule when they returned home from an unpopular war.
Often, the veterans had to take off their uniforms to go through airports to avoid disdainful treatment, Briskey said.
“We don’t want to overshadow anybody,” said a Vietnam veteran who also addressed the board. “We weren’t treated well, and we don’t want to overshadow anybody.”
The other four memorials at the site on the Black River honor veterans of World War I and Korea, female nurses from World War II and Hmong and Lao veterans who fought for the United States.
The other memorials don’t have lights, so the concern is that the lighting, number of flags and vegetation might seem to diminish the importance of the other memorials, Trussoni said.
Running the electricity might require trenching through blacktop from the supply source, he said. The cost of electricity, as well as caring for the flags and the plantings would be additional maintenance costs.
Board members also discussed the possibility of solar lighting, another option Briskey and other memorial committee members had explored. The downside is that it would need to be replaced every five years, according to the proposal.
Estimated costs of the project, raised from donations, range from $122,507, including just the American flag and solar lighting, to $154,790, depending on the number of path lights and flags.
Board member Marvin Wanders proposed approving Phase 1, to begin constructing the wall and laying concrete and return later to consider flags and lighting. Flags and lighting might be considered for the other memorials, too, he said.
Wanders described that as a “wholistic approach … and good collaboration.”
The board unanimously approved that approach.
Dedication of the memorial would take place in July, and a third phase might include a statue of a soldier.
Briskey began advocating the project in 2016, when he realized there is no memorial for Vietnam veterans. When he contacted the city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, he learned that Louie Ferris, president of the local Korean War Veterans Association, was one of the driving forces behind the Veterans Freedom Park memorials.
Briskey researched the Vietnam War extensively and met with the developer of The Highground Memorial in Neillsville, WI, Mike Martino of La Crosse created the memorial drawing from information Briskey supplied.