Written in stone — Somber memorials recall county’s sacrifice


NEWPORT — The plaza of stone, concrete and bronze, hidden beneath a bluff of sand and sea grasses, often comes as a surprise to people strolling along the oceanfront path at Nye Beach.

“I didn’t know it was here,” said Randy Yost, 65, a visitor from Portland who didn’t serve in the military but lost classmates and friends to a conflict that scarred his generation.

“It’s sort of like that war — it was over the horizon, out of sight,” he said. “You never thought about it until somebody close to you got killed, and suddenly, everything was about Vietnam.”

Veterans Day is Sunday, Nov. 11, a holiday when many people still seek a quiet place to encourage their thoughts and memories. The astonishing memorial to 24 young men from Lincoln County who died in the Vietnam War is one of nine throughout the county erected to honor the service of veterans.

At Newport’s Vietnam Commemorative Walkway, their sacrifice is written in stone. A world-renowned sculptor and founder of the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Frank Boyden, was commissioned in 1991 to design the memorial plaza at Donald A. Davis Park.

Supporters of the visionary project included the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 732, the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz and city officials who underwrote much of the $100,000 effort.

Drawing curious passersby is the striking, 12-foot obelisk that anchors the plaza. Like the metaphorical drawings on a dollar bill, it appears to be inscrutable: a tall spire of bronze herons in flight that spirals skyward.

But the “obelisk of souls” is also a sundial whose shadow falls once a year — April 30, the date the Vietnam War ended — on a slab of South African black granite. Etched into the stone, from the same quarry that yielded the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., is a line of poetry by Tom Crawford:

“Life is an appointment we must all keep if we are quiet and can find the way…”

The boulder upon whose massive flank is carved the names of those killed in the war was found in a quarry south of Lincoln City.

Their names were Gary Eugene Elford, Thomas Taylor Walker, Lyman Allister McMullen, Gerald Don Hoffman, David R. Blackman III, Charles Eugene Johnson, Ronald Allen Slane, Robert William Eagleson, Jack Leroy Goodwin, Michael Dee Oliver, Paul Arnold Youngman, Thomas Clyde Schriver, Kevin Wayne Bowdish, Robert Lloyd Coulter, Michael James Gwinn, Bruce Mayo McClellen, Gerald Deever Pochel, Dennis Eugene Edge, Gary William Britton, Larry Michael Gassner, Gary Wayne Smith, Clifford Thomas Johnson and Glenn Miller Hayden.

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