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Memorial will honor local soldiers killed in Vietnam
A planned Vietnam War memorial will put faces with the names of the local men who died in the conflict, but help is needed from family members who have pictures.
The memorial will be built in front of the lodge at Veterans Park. It will incorporate a Gold Star Mothers monument already in place. Stones bearing the names of those who died in the Vietnam War will be placed in a design with the Gold Star Mothers monument.  Each stone will have a portrait etching.
Vietnam veteran John McKnight said the Gold Star Mothers monument will be rotated and the memorial stones will be placed in front of it.
“It gives the impression that the Gold Star Mothers are still watching over their kids,” he said.
Lewis N. O’Shields, Jr., a Vietnam veteran who came up with the idea for the monument, has been looking for pictures of the 15 men who will be memorialized. He has found pictures of 11 of the men online on Vietnam veterans memorial sites but the thumbnail pictures are low resolution.  These 11 men are Henry Lankford, Everette Thompson, Curtis Jeter, Frank Barbee, Tony Barnett, Troy Puckett, Jesse Baker, Roy Bratton, Wallace Thomson McMakin, Walter “Bubba” Brannon and Olan Coleman.
O’Shields said he has been unable to find any pictures of Belton Lyles, Leroy Johnson and Leonda Sartor. A close up picture showing the face of Brannon is needed. O’Shields said for the etchings to look their best and be most accurate, he hopes family members of all the men will come forward with pictures.
“We need all of them,” O’Shields said.
Those working with the project hope to have it completed in time for Veterans Day activities on Nov. 11.
The criteria to be part of the memorial include that the service member was born in Union County, is buried in Union County or entered military service while living here.
During the 2013-14 school year, members of Jeanie Malone’s AP History Class at Union County High School assisted with the project by gathering information on each of the men. There are still more facts that need to be gathered. For instance, Thompson was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., but is buried in Union. Those involved with the memorial project have been unable to find out any further information about him.
All of Union County’s veterans organizations, including the American Legion posts and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 644 are involved in the project, which was approved by the Veterans Memorial Lodge Board.
Donations to pay for the monument also are needed. Milliken has agreed to donate a large flag pole from the Excelsior Mill site. Vietnam veteran John McKnight said it is estimated the project will cost around $20,000.
“We have people who are chomping at the bit to donate,” he said. “We have people who want to get in behind it. A friend of mine in New York plans to donate $2,500. It’s going to take some effort but I think we can do it.”
O’Shields’ nephew, Kendall Revis with Thompson Construction, created an architectural drawing of the monument at no cost.
 (Pictures may be emailed to mcknightjl@charter.net or jacketman66@outlook.com or mailed to the VVA Chapter 644, P.O. Box 1077, Union, S.C., 29379.)


(Posted August 25, 2014)
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