By Gordon Dritschilo
The Vietnam Veterans of America is replacing the memorial in Main Street Park, but the group itself wants the public to know they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Adrian Megrath, president of the Rutland chapter of VVA, said Friday they signed a $9,000 contract with West Rutland sculptor Donald Ramey to replace the Rutland County Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“The one that’s up there is full of flaws,” Megrath said. “The left toe boot broke off. Don glued it back on, but there are some major cracks up there.”
Sculptor John Reno of Fair Haven, himself a Vietnam veteran, began the memorial, but only got as far as creating the head before he died in 1982. Megrath said then-president John Bergeron found it in a scrap heap and salvaged it, and Ramey was brought in to finish it. The memorial was dedicated in 2000, and Ramey repaired it when it was vandalized in 2006.
“For all intents and purposes, the block that’s there was a scrap piece of marble,” he said.
Megrath said there was a discussion about whether the new memorial should be marble or granite. With the original made of marble and marble such an important part of local history, Megrath said that stone carried the day.
With an aging and dwindling membership, the VVA recently approached the city about establishing a fund to maintain the memorial in perpetuity. Megrath said statements about the group anticipating its eventual demise — membership remains open only to veterans of the Vietnam War — were misconstrued as saying the chapter would disband imminently.
“We are not disbanding,” Megrath said. “Not yet.”
Nor, he said, will the group need to do any fundraising for the new memorial.
“We get so much from the national organization, and we have a bar in Fair Haven that does rip tickets for us,” he said. “We haven’t really given out any money in a few years to vets that need help.”
The new memorial will have a slightly altered design to avoid rainwater pooling in it, but Megrath said most people shouldn’t notice the difference.
Megrath said they were still deciding what to do with the memorial that is being replaced.
He said one option is breaking it up — which could happen inadvertently as it is moved — and giving the stones to people who want them, as was done with chips produced during the original sculpting. There was also a school of thought in favor of installing it intact at an alternate location.
Megrath said the time line was not certain yet, either, but that the switch would happen “relatively soon.”
“The crane operator I know is retiring in October, so it’s going to be before October,” he said.