San Antonio's Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated Nov. 9, 1986, in a ceremony attended by about 6,000 persons, including the former commander of ground forces in Vietnam, retired Army Gen. William C. Westmoreland. The war's top soldier said it was one of the most impressive and largest crowds he had seen. Westmoreland gave the keynote address at the event, stating that the memorial's unveiling represented a coming home for veterans. "Before, they were physically at home but didn't feel accepted -- now it's a reality," he said.
The memorial depicts a radio operator comforting a wounded comrade while anxiously searching the sky for a medevac helicopter. The bronze sculpture stands about 10 feet tall at its highest point and is 23 feet long and 12 feet wide. With a weight of more than 10 tons, it is the largest sculpture of its kind in the country. The memorial is located in front of Municipal Auditorium, in a portion of the facility's parking lot that has been transformed into the Veterans Memorial Plaza. A monument to Korean War veterans was added later at the other end of the plaza.
"Hill 881 South," as the memorial is officially called, was created by Scottsdale, Ariz., artist Austin Deuel who served as a Marine illustrator during the war. On April 30, 1967, the dramatic sight of radioman Donald Hassock helping an injured soldier inspired Deuel to draw the picture that 19 years later would become the model for San Antonio's memorial.
Businessman and Vietnam veteran John Baines, chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of San Antonio Inc., led the effort to establish a monument to honor the area's war veterans. In January 1986 Deuel and his staff in Arizona began working on the sculpture, and on May 2, 1986, the San Antonio City Council approved the memorial's construction plans.
But funds were still needed to pay for the sculpture and the surrounding plaza. So San Antonians went to work, taking part in a number of events to raise the money. A radio station held a radiothon and groups sponsored a Walk for the Vietnam Veterans, during which participants raised money by taking pledges for each mile they walked. Comedian Bob Hope performed at a benefit show held in the auditorium. These activities eventually raised the $600,000 that was needed.
On Nov. 4, 1986, the sculpture left Scottsdale on a flatbed truck and arrived in San Antonio three days later. It was dedicated on Nov. 9, just two days shy of Veterans Day. This is what is inscribed on the front of the sculpture's base:
"Permanently encased within the memorial is an air tight compartment that contains a complete list of the names, serial numbers, branches of the military and dates of service of the men and women from the San Antonio area who served in the Vietnam War. Over 60,000 fine young Americans from our community served in Vietnam. This memorial is a tribute to all of them."
On the other side of the base is a poem titled "Death at My Door":
Day is over and danger hastens Young Marines at their battle stations Instruments of war outline the sky Means of death are standing by Can it be true on this high hill Forces will clash only to kill? Silence fills the near moonless night Restless thoughts of a bloody fight Endless memories for those awake Meaningful discussions experience would make Though silent world in which we live Permit only God's comfort to give Somewhere through the darkness creeping A date with death is in the keeping Alone I sit and question why Life itself to be born to merely die?
David Rogers 1st Lt USMC April 30, 1967 Hill 881 South Republic of Vietnam
Visit the Concho Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dedicated May 17, 1997
Located at the entrance to San Angelo Regional Airport, Knickerbocker Road