Rededication for Vietnam War monument

File photo: Vietnam veteran Chuck "Graves" Roth plants a medallion and an American flag at the Chadds Ford Vietnam monument shortly after it was rediscovered in August 2012.

One of the earliest, if not the very first, monument dedicated to those who served in Vietnam is about to be rededicated after years of obscurity and neglect.

It had been forgotten, rediscovered, reclaimed and then stolen, but a replica of the Chadds Ford’s Vietnam monument is about to be dedicated during a ceremony at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Brandywine Mills Shopping Center, 751 Wilmington Pike in Glen Mills. The location is part of a green space between a row of shops and the Wegmans supermarket.

The monument, a cannon on a stone base, is one of the monuments dedicated to U.S. military personnel who served in Vietnam. It was rediscovered four years ago behind some brush in an unused bank parking lot along Route 202 in Chadds Ford Township. But no one seemed to know anything about its origin. Who commissioned it, made it, dedicated it and why remain mysteries.

The Chadds Ford Vietnam monument after veterans cleaned up the area and before it was stolen.

The Chadds Ford Vietnam monument after veterans cleaned up the area and before it was stolen.

According to a plaque, the monument was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1966, only two years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that committed American fighting forces to Vietnam, and four years before the Tet offensive of ‘68, when about 57,000 of the 58,316 dead were still living.

The plaque reads: “To the men of Delaware County for their valiant service in Vietnam.”

It also includes a partial quote from Wendell Willkie, the 1940 Republican presidential candidate: “Freedom is an indivisible word. If we want to enjoy it, and fight for it, we must be prepared to extend it to everyone, whether they are rich or poor, whether they agree with us or not…”

Steve Quigley, of Concord Towing, brought the monument to public attention after he rediscovered it while cleaning the area near his business four years ago. It was surrounded by brush and debris in an old bank parking lot diagonally across from Hillman Drive. That location is now part of the entrance to the Wegmans’ development.

So far, no one has been found with any recollection of its dedication, and public records have revealed no information. Local newspapers have no record in their archives, and searches at the Chadds Ford and Chester County historical societies were fruitless.

In August 2012, some Vietnam veterans, along with Quigley, began looking after this monument by cleaning up weeds, and placing flags and wreaths until construction started at the Brandywine Mills shopping center.

Peter S. Miller, president of Carlino Commercial Development that built the Wegmans and surrounding development, said, “We’re happy to move the monument to give it a respectful place within our public space of our development. I think it will be a perfect gathering spot.”

But the cannon was stolen in 2014, shortly before it was supposed to be moved to a safe location during construction of Brandywine Mills. The original cannon was not recovered.

Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 67 of Delaware County will be the official host with its president, Bill Gafford, acting as master of ceremonies. U.S. Air Force Capt. Ralph W. Galati, a former POW from Vietnam Veterans of Springfield Delaware County, will be the guest speaker.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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