FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Every Arkansan who died in the Vietnam War is being honored with a new monument at the Fort Smith National Cemetery.
Chapter 467 of the Vietnam Veterans of America said a memorial like this has not been done before in the state.
Richard Meers served in the United States Navy in 1966 during the Vietnam War, and he is one of many who helped make the monument possible.
“We have a responsibility to live our lives in an appropriate manner, and to hold up their memory,” Meers said Thursday (March 31), after the monument was put in place.
“I was at Vietam in '69 and '70,” Robert Coulson said.
Coulson was in the Army.
“I think it'll mean a whole lot, just hopefully we didn't miss anybody,” Coulson said.
They did their best to make sure they didn’t miss anyone, and now 597 names of those killed in the war are proudly engraved on the wall.
“One of the other members of the chapter and his wife spent hours online going through several different lists, and there were quite a few we came up with. 588 names first, 592 the second, and finally we came up with more names that added up to 597,” Meers explained.
That’s 595 more names than the previous panel, which stood in its place at the cemetery for about 18 years. The panel was once a part of the traveling wall, a replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C., and only had two Arkansans listed.
Meers and Coulson said the panel started to fall apart, and they decided in November 2015 to make a new one with every Arkansan listed.
“It's pretty rough,” Coulson said. “It started deteriorating from the ground up, and it just got in pretty bad shape.”
The Vietnam Veterans of America are hopeful families of those who died will visit the wall, and search for their hero's name.
“Some of these people had young children at the time, and now they've got grandchildren that will be able to at least see their name,” Meers said.
Families are encouraged to trace the name on paper, the same way many do at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C.
“It’s just something they can take home,” Meers said.
The old panel will be framed and placed in a museum run by Chapter 467 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
An official dedication ceremony will take place Saturday (April 2) at noon at the Fort Smith National Cemetery.