SAN JOSE (KPIX) — A new memorial unveiled Friday in San Jose honors the thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers who died fighting alongside American troops nearly 50 years ago.
The newest addition to the Viet Museum at History Park in San Jose is a memorial that commemorates the battle for Quang Tri Province — also known as the Easter Offensive of 1972 — during the Vietnam War.
The structure — made of cement, brass, marble and granite — stands nearly 13 feet tall and weighs about 17 tons. It was funded by private donations.
Designer Lam Nguyen constructed the memorial in multiple slabs of stone, with a sandwiched piece angling up to a peak symbolizing the tenets of Vietnamese culture.
“The base is the earth, the tall portion will be the heaven and the main panels will be the human being,” said Nguyen.
A bronze relief plaque depicts a pivotal moment in the battle, when South Vietnamese forces raised the flag over the ancient citadel after defeating North Vietnamese soldiers.
In the spring of 1972, North Vietnamese forces invaded Quang Tri, in hopes of forcing a collapse of the south. By summertime, southern forces regrouped and, with support from American GIs, won back the province after three months of intense fighting.
According to Nguyen, 7,000 South Vietnamese troops died alongside thousands of U.S. soldiers who perished in the battle.
Van Tan Thach, who survived the battle half a century ago and witnessed the flag-raising at the citadel, said he hopes younger generations of Vietnamese-Americans would never forget their sacrifices.
“When they look at this monument, they must remember and always commemorate those who died for freedom, democracy and human rights for Vietnam,” said Thach.
For organizers who fundraised, lobbied elected officials for support, and secured permits, the monument is a bittersweet moment to reflect on the loss and progress of the Bay Area’s Vietnamese community.
“Sad. Sad because all these people sacrificed and we still lost our country,” said organizer Megan Williams.
For organizer Lillian Dang, teaching her children about the struggles of fleeing their homeland for a new life in America has been a challenge.
“When you tell them, they know about it, of course. But when you show them the monument, that will be a spiritual thing,” said Dang.
“We fought with courage and we pay the price for freedom,” said organizer Sam Ho. “To quote Fannie Lou Hamer, the famed civil rights leader, ‘Never to forget where we came from and always praise the bridges that carried us over.’”