SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – The Scotch Plains Vietnam Memorial was officially unveiled at a ceremony held in front of Town Hall on Sunday.
Bob LaCosta, head of the Scotch Plains Building Department and a Vietnam veteran, was the moving force behind the plans to create this memorial.
“The vision of the memorial is now a reality,” said LaCosta in the program’s opening remarks. He went on to list some of the veterans who helped raise funds, design and build the memorial, including Ralph Checchio, Frank Chupko, Joe McCourt and Don Wussler, and donors such as civic groups, veterans groups, merchants and individuals.
“To all Vietnam veterans, finally, welcome home and thank you,” said LaCosta, “and to all veterans celebrating Veterans Day, thank you.”
Father John Paladino, Pastor of St. Bartholomew The Apostle Parish, gave the invocation, and the keynote speaker was Dr. Ralph Oriscello from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Vietnam veteran Joe McCourt then gave a retrospective on the war, of what it meant to have “gone through hell,” whether they were volunteers or conscripts, and how they are forever haunted by what they experienced there.
Checchio then stepped forward for the official dedication of the Memorial. “The Vietnam War lasted from 1959 to 1975. Millions of service men and women were involved, whether overseas or Stateside,” said Checchio, who then went on detail the thousands lost in action and the three “sons of Scotch Plains” that were listed on the memorial – Charles S. Burns III, Eugene W. Hendricks and Edward M. Klaniecki.
Checchio then concluded his remarks by indicating that the Memorial was also dedicated to all American Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action and for “the families that wait and wonder, you are not forgotten.”
After the Memorial was officially unveiled, the American Legion Post 209 Color Guard conducted the rifle salute, Frank Besson of SPF High School played taps, LaCosta thanked everyone for coming and Adriane Fajnor led the audience in singing “God Bless America”.
The afternoon came to an official close as Matt Glackin, a bagpiper from the St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band, played a patriotic medley.
“It really was a beautiful service,” said Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover.
Reflections from the Program
“I do not believe that the men who served in uniform in Vietnam have been given the credit they deserve. It was a difficult war against an unorthodox enemy.” --Gen. William C. Westmoreland
“This war in Vietnam is, I believe, a way for civilization. Certainly it is not a war of our seeking. It is a war thrust upon us and we cannot yield to tyranny.” --Francis Cardinal Spellman
There are 58,267 names listed on the polished black wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.