Norwich to Dedicate Monument to Post-Vietnam War Veterans

  • Norwich American Legion Lyman F. Pell Post #8 Commander Lyle Favreau casts a shadow across a new memorial in front of Tracy Hall set to be dedicated on Monday, Nov.12,2018. Favreau and a group of vets taking part in the ceremony gathered Wednesday Nov. 7,2018 to rehearse for the event.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jim Maguire,left, and Gary DeGasta, both of Norwich, look at names on a new war memorial on Wednesday, Nov.8,2018 in Norwich, Vt. The memorial honors town veterans who served from May 7,1975 (the last day of the Vietnam War) until now. Two other memorials next to it honor veterans who served prior to that date.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Bob Totz of Norwich, Vt. plays "America the Beautiful" on his trumpet while rehearsing on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 in Norwich for an upcoming dedication of a new war memorial in front of Tracy Hall. "I want to see if I can get above the sound of the traffic," he said.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Demo Sofronas, second from the left, and fellow members of Norwich American Legion Lyman F. Pell Post #8, bring their hands together in celebration following a rehearsal on Wednesday, Nov.8,2018 in Norwich, Vt. The new memorial honors the town's veterans who served from May 7,1975 (the last day of the Vietnam War) untill present.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Friday, November 09, 2018

For six decades, two memorials have stood side by side in front of Norwich’s Tracy Hall. The older of the two commemorated those Norwich citizens who served in American wars from the Revolution through Korea.

The second memorial honored the women and men who served during the Vietnam War. The lists of names are long, and marked occasionally by the gold star that indicates a combat death.

But it’s been more than 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War and there was a feeling in town that a monument honoring the post-Vietnam contributions of Norwich residents in the Armed Forces and National Guard or Reserve was overdue.

That omission prompted Jim Harlow, former commander of American Legion Lyman F. Pell Post 8, to suggest the town take up the cause. Legion members Harlow, Jim McGuire and Lyle Favreau, the current commander of Post 8, formed a committee in January 2014 to explore the ways the town could make good on honoring younger veterans.

At 1 p.m. on Monday, the town will unveil an honor roll to a post-Vietnam generation of men and women with a Norwich connection who have served in peacetime and in such conflicts as Panama and Grenada, Lebanon and Afghanistan and Iraq. The monument of Vermont granite, engraved with 74 names, was made by the Rock of Ages quarry and factory in Barre.

“The amount of work that went into this is truly amazing. The generosity exhibited by people here just stunned me,” said McGuire, the committee’s chairman.

He spoke about the process in an interview last week at Tracy Hall, along with fellow committee members Gary De Gasta, a former head of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, and Demosthenes “Demo” Sofronas. All three are Army veterans.

The criteria for inclusion on the monument were fairly straightforward, McGuire and De Gasta said.

The person has to have lived in Norwich at the time of service, or returned to Norwich after serving. The person has to have served in the Armed Forces, National Guard or the Reserves and been honorably discharged. And he or she has to have the paperwork (a DD-214, the Department of Defense document issued when a service member retires, is discharged or is separated from active duty) to prove it. But it is not necessary for a person to have served during wartime.

“You don’t have to be in a war; they just have to show up and do their jobs,” McGuire said.

In September 2016, the committee approached the town Selectboard, which encouraged them to go forward. The committee then put out notices on the Norwich Listserv looking for veterans. They also contacted local American Legion and VFW posts, Norwich University, the military academy in Northfield, Vt., and Hanover High School.

The estimate for the monument was roughly $16,000. The committee then got to work raising the money and securing volunteer labor, with the help of Favreau, who contacted local contractors.

McGuire started a GoFundMe page, which raised about $1,200. They also received donations from people both in and outside the Upper Valley, and from the Byrne Foundation, the Norwich Lion’s Club, Norwich Women’s Club and the Vermont Veterans Fund.

The committee also needed to decide what shape the monument would take, De Gasta said.

Would it be an obelisk or a tablet? Would it consist of a metal plate with the names inscribed on it attached to a stone memorial, or would it be a granite marker with the names engraved?

They decided on a granite tablet with the names engraved directly onto the stone. This sets it apart from the other two stone monuments, which feature attached bronze plates with the names of service members etched onto them. In preparation for the ceremony on Monday, the two older monuments are being cleaned to “restore them to their ancient glory,” McGuire said.

Two Norwich contractors, Thad Goodwin and Ernie Parker, donated labor, equipment and personnel to the work involved in excavating the ground in front of Tracy Hall. They made room for the new honor roll and a new flag pole and installed the concrete deck, designed to look like cobblestones, that now surrounds all three monuments, Favreau said. A third contractor, Tom Root, who is based in Strafford, donated electrical work.

McGuire, an avid sailor, noted that it’s a “constant struggle to get the boat to do the right thing.” But in the case of coordinating the materials and schedule, the sailing was smooth. “Everybody was easy to work with,” he said.

The old flag pole, which had stood since the 1950s, was replaced by a new one, which now stands behind the monuments, not to their right, as the previous pole had.

There are in the U.S. about 1.3 million active duty troops, and around 835,000 reserve troops, according to a 2017 report in the New York Times. Given that this represents less-than-one percent of a U.S. population of nearly 327 million, it’s important, said De Gasta, that Americans remember those who serve.

“You sort of forget about it, it’s someone else’s war. But we’re not going to let that happen, we won’t let them fade away,” DeGasta said.

McGuire added that he happened to be near the new monument recently when a couple walked by. The man stopped to look, and then saw his name on it. “He didn’t realize there was going to be a new monument,” McGuire said.

The new Honor Roll has ample room on both front and back for new names to be added, McGuire said, in the event of future conflicts.

Nicola Smith can be reached at mail@nicolasmith.org.