W.V. to get Vietnam Memorial

Freedom Alliance Monument to hail soldiers who died

By Deborah Bulkeley and Ana Breton
Deseret Morning News

When Tom Huynh looks at a
patch of land on the south side of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center in West
Valley City, he sees a place that will soon be a memorial for soldiers who died
in the Vietnam War.

The Freedom Alliance
Monument will be cast in bronze and is scheduled to be unveiled at a community
party in September. Huynh has headed up efforts by the local Vietnamese
community to raise money to cover the monument’s $45,000 cost. Fund-raisers are
still looking for about $7,000.

The statue is of two
soldiers, one American and one South Vietnamese, standing side by side in full
combat gear. They are looking straight ahead, shoulder to shoulder.

The sculptor, Lehi artist
Jerime Hooley, says it was designed to portray a
sense of unity and hope. Huynh asked Hooley to create the statue. The two men
had met several years ago while they were attending the same church.

“The figures are
somewhat facing each other, and they are looking in the same direction,”
Hooley said. “Hopefully, this represents all those who have sacrificed and
also looks to the unity of the future between the Vietnamese community and the
United States.”

For Huynh, whose father was
killed while fighting for South Vietnam when Huynh was only 5 years old, the
monument represents a way to honor those who sacrificed so that he could have
the life he now lives. Huynh said the monument will also give the younger
generation of Vietnamese immigrants a sense of their history, “why they
are here.”

He remembers his
grandfather once told him, “Tom, when you eat fruit, you have to remember
the farmer who nurtured the fruit tree.”

In 2003, when Huynh found
out space was available at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, he brought the
idea for a monument first to the Vietnamese community, then to West Valley City
officials, and they all signed off on the project.

“I am lucky to be
here. Many people sacrificed their lives so that I would be able to have a good
day today,” Huynh said in a recent interview. “I want to be a
productive guy, a good citizen and support as much as I can this government,
this people, this country.”

Of the 5,968 Vietnamese in
Utah in 2000, most are foreign born, according to the U.S. Census. Most, Huynh
said, are South Vietnamese refugees who were able to escape Vietnam after the

Huynh’s family was targeted
in Vietnam after the war, because his father had once worked for the U.S.
government. Huynh said they received threats, even though his father had died
when Huynh was younger.

Hooley said that life after
the war was also turbulent for many American veterans. His own late uncle
survived the war, but the trauma stayed with him for life. Hooley’s uncle was
the model for the American soldier in the memorial statue.

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