One Henderson County resident dreams of building a memorial for Vietnam War veterans at Sandy Lee Watkins Park.
But Dan Hawkins admits that the money he has collected so far is only a drop in the bucket of what is needed.
Still, Hawkins is determined to get the memorial built. He said it’s one step to restore a sense of dignity that Vietnam veterans were denied once they returned home from war.
He also said the monument will pay homage to the continued suffering many veterans of the war have dealt with since returning.
“We brought death back with us,” Hawkins said. “The main emphasis is the suffering Vietnam vets have brought home with them.”
One focus of the monument is to bring more awareness of the agony brought on by the wartime use of Agent Orange, a herbicide that was used in Vietnam to clear vegetation. Veterans and civilians who were exposed to it have suffered major health problems, including various cancers, heart diseases and nervous system conditions, among many others.
Hawkins, 70, said the monument will also bring awareness to the mental suffering, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder, that Vietnam veterans have endured and continue to endure.
Hawkins said he goes to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Evansville three to four times each month for treatment.
Plans for the monument, called the 3 Star Veteran’s Memorial, include three stars made of brown paver bricks. Fourteen flag poles rise from the ground surrounding the inlaid brick monument. Among many symbolic pieces of the monument, there is a flag to honor Agent Orange victims and the Vietnam Veterans Flag dedicated to all Vietnam veterans, and more.
People who want to contribute can buy bricks and get the name of a veteran engraved on the brick.
Hawkins said for this monument to be built, county government will have to support it. Sandy Lee Watkins Park is a county park.
Henderson County Judge-Executive Brad Schneider said he’s met with Hawkins and told him that if he can raise the money, county government will install it.
Hawkins estimated it will take $290,000 for the memorial to be built. He only has hundreds right now, he said.
“We deserve this,” Hawkins said. “You won’t see anything like this anywhere in the state.”
Hawkins began his service when he was 17 years old. His father pushed him into military service so that he’d become more disciplined in his life. He first attempted to join the Marines but didn’t get in because he was color blind, he said. He then joined the Navy.
“This was a war that left many scars,” Hawkins said. “But the scars don’t heal very well.”