Veteran’s sacrifices remembered

Paul Boerger
The ‘Why’ sculpture, above, depicting a soldier coming to the aid of a falling comrade is one of 10 artworks created by US?Marine Vietnam veteran Dennis Smith at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden.

Memorial Day at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden outside of Weed honored America’s war dead and living veterans with flags, patriotism, speakers and music.

The names on the Hot LZ Wall, a replica of the Washington DC Vietnam Memorial, reflect the past and present service of veterans of Siskiyou County. Every Memorial Day, more names are added to the wall.

Total dead in America’s wars are approximately 1,500,000 since 1776 to the present conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

From the Revolutionary War to the Middle East, America’s soldiers have fought and died for their beliefs. Several hundred citizens came to the Memorial Garden May 25 to honor their sacrifices.

Keynote speaker Alan Johns, 77 year old Navy veteran and pilot of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, mixed in humor when he talked of his ancestors’ contributions to the military, going back to the Civil War, and serious reflection as he recalled a letter home from a Korean War veteran written five days before he was killed in action.

“Someday, I’ll tell you all about what is going on. I think we move from this spot today and it won’t be to the rear,” Johns read from the letter by Buddy Russell. “I went to mass and communion yesterday, first time in a long time and I do feel better about it all. Will be glad when this is over.”

Johns recalled his service piloting submarine detection planes from aircraft carriers.

“Remember,” Johns said in closing, “this three day holiday was made possible by all the men and women who have died in all America’s wars.”

Marine Corps League Siskiyou Detachment 939 presented the colors along with the flag salute led by master of ceremonies, US?Navy retired Captain Dr. John Runnels, and the national anthem sung by Gina Fritzke.

New names to the wall were dedicated and Taps was played.

Many of those attending visited the sculptures by US?Marine combat Vietnam War veteran Dennis Smith. Smith says the metal artworks, which symbolically depict war themes, are designed “to uplift, edify and educate.”

From “All Wounded Warriors” to “The Why Group,” the sculptures ask the viewer to face the reality of war, its causes and aftermaths.

“Each sculpture has personal meaning for me in terms of life experience and personal incidents,” Smith says. “Through the arts we have the means to peacefully consider violence and to ask questions as well as offer possible solutions.”

The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden and Hot LZ Wall are located 13 miles northeast of Weed on Highway 97.

Navy veteran Alan Johns was the keynote speaker at the Hot LZ?Wall on Sunday.