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Fort Sill Unveils New Vietnam Memorial

FORT SILL, Okla._Fort Sill unveiled a new Air Defense Vietnam Memorial Friday honoring its heroes who fought in an unpopular war.

"Taps" and a gun salute filled the air on Post as the red cloth was lifted. It revealed a 6-foot marble eagle. The statue symbolizes the Air Defense Artillery's heroic fight in Vietnam to protect the nation's freedom.

The idea for the memorial was born in March 2011 when a group of veterans were on a trip in Vietnam. One purchased the marble eagle for his yard. But when he returned, he and his wife knew the statue was meant for something bigger. It became the focal point for the memorial. And Friday Operation Eagle came full circle when the memorial was revealed to the hundreds of veterans in attendance.

To Retired Colonel Vincent Tedesco, the new Air Defense Artillery Vietnam Memorial shows the valor of his fellow veterans.

"It symbolizes, in my mind, the courage that every air defense soldier has," said Tedesco.

He knows firsthand how heroically the men in the Air Defense Units fought in Vietnam. He actually earned the silver star for his leadership in the Ambush on Route 9, a scene he will never forget.

"So you drive over the top of the hill and you see in front of you a line of vehicles everyone of them damaged. Men laying on the side of the road some dead, some wounded. A marine tank, the closest thing to me, with its gun pointed at me and a dead marine lying across the front of the tank," said Tedesco.

Tedesco led his men down the road to help those soldiers who had been ambushed. In a matter of 4 hours, he organized his men to get the wounded and dead out while continuing the fight.

"For me it was a constant, trying to organize them and put them into a defense because the enemy was there and the enemy wanted us," said Tedesco.

And Friday Fort Sill honored these Vietnam Veterans for their tireless fight in Vietnam.

"It's a great opportunity for us to honor our Vietnam Veterans, our heroes of that war. And these air defenders were so effective at clearing the enemy's skies that our ground forces relied on them for close combat," said Major General Mark McDonald.

To Major General Mark McDonald this memorial is especially important. It highlights the men who fought in one of the country's most unpopular wars.

"They are moved. They feel appreciated because they weren't when they came home. It was an unpopular war. There were no ceremonies for people that came home. This is part of that healing process," said McDonald.

And Friday, the names of each fallen soldier were read. They made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their units, nation, and comrades in Vietnam. And to Retired Colonel Tedesco there was no better feeling then seeing the memorial Friday.

"At the age of 70, I have a bucket list. This was number one. If something were to happen to me on the way home, at least I was here for this. I was here for the honoring of those wonderful men," said Tedesco.

And Friday was also somewhat of a homecoming for most of the Vietnam Veterans in attendance. Most trained here at Fort Sill. And current soldiers in the Air Defense Artillery also attended the ceremony, including Retired Colonel Tedesco's son, who he said carries on his legacy.

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