Vietnam War memorial unveiled at Fort Sill

Vietnam War memorial unveiled at Fort Sill

FORT SILL, Okla._Around 170 veterans and their families gathered Wednesday to celebrate the dedication of the 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery's Vietnam memorial.

A portion of the ceremony was moved inside because of the rain. Speakers talked about the history of the unit from the Korean War to the present. The unit was first deployed from Fort Sill to Vietnam on September 23, 1966. The "All for One" memorial in Constitution Park lists the names of 20 soldiers with the unit who were killed in action in Vietnam.

For about two years, they have been taking donations to build the $50,000 memorial. Veterans say this memorial is something they have been looking forward to for a long time.

Former Army medic John West served for three years in Vietnam. He says he has waited almost 50 years for this day.

"From now until hear after. As long as this base is here, the first of the 40th Vietnam veterans will be remembered by this monument," said West.

On June 27, 1967, West found himself one mile away from the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, which was the front line of battle. West says he was sent to treat Navy troops.

"I was there with a battery. I was there for 30 days. We got hit 27 out of 30 artillery, but we also fired a lot of artillery," recalled West.

Less than a month later, he was discharged from service.

Four generations were represented at the dedication with veterans from the Korean War to soldiers serving in the unit right now. Lieutenant Colonel Fidel Ruiz, the current battalion commander, has been helping the veterans make today's memorial dedication possible.

"Vietnam veterans, they are in my heart right now. For the past two years I have been talking to them quite often," said Ruiz.

They hope the memorial will be a reminder of the past and an inspiration for the future.

"Just as people will approach us now to say thanks for serving, I thank them for serving and they are protecting the freedom now as we did then," said West.

The memorial will be kept up by current soldiers in the 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery on Fort Sill. In present day, the unit handles basic combat training under the 434th Field Artillery.

Designated as the first howitzer battery, the 40th Field Artillery has been at Fort Sill since February 1966.