A battlefield promise to keep alive the memory of the corporal who died saving his life was the inspiration for local veteran Ron Riggs to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park (VVMP) in Dayton. Thanks to his and his fellow veterans’ efforts, the park came to fruition in 1986 and features a black granite “Ring of Remembrance” that lists the names of 401 Miami Valley men who lost their lives during service in Vietnam. It also honors those men and women who served during the Vietnam War, from 1955 to 1975. More than 30 years later, the four-acre park located along Veterans Parkway continues to provide a serene setting to honor those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Helping to carry on the Park’s legacy are Vietnam Veterans and longtime VVMP board members Jack Meagher, a retired U.S. Army Captain and Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge, and Mark Kucharski, a retired V.A. Medical Center engineering technician and current VVMP board president. Through local partnerships with the City of Dayton and other organizations, including The Dayton Foundation, the VVMP board strives to honor their fellow soldiers and the mantra “All Gave Some, Some Gave All.”
Both Meagher and Kucharski recently sat down with us to emphasize the importance of preserving this historical park for future generations.
Q: Since 1986, Dayton has been home to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park. What does this mean to Vietnam Veterans and to the community?
Mark: Vietnam Veterans needed a place to honor their brothers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. To the community, it’s a serene place to enjoy and reflect upon the honorable service these men and women gave to this nation.
Jack: If you haven’t visited the park and want to experience it for yourself, it’s open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services are held every Memorial Day and Veterans Day at 11:00 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend our Memorial Day services this Monday, May 29, experience the park and honor those veterans who have served and sacrificed for our freedom.
Q: When and how did you become involved with the Memorial Park?
Jack: I attended the dedication ceremony for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., where I met fellow veterans from Dayton. They were trying to raise money to build a memorial. I joined the effort and was elected the first president of the VVMP board.
Mark: I was asked to attend a meeting of the VVMP board in 1988 to discuss some planned improvements to the park. I was nominated and voted onto the board, serving as chairman of the Maintenance Committee. I was elected president of the VVMP board in 1999 and have served in that capacity ever since.
Q: How can others get involved with continuing the legacy of VVMP?
Mark: The legacy of the VVMP can be continued through memorial donations and estate planning. One hundred percent of all donations to the VVMP go toward the maintenance and upkeep of the park and memorial. Volunteering to periodically spruce up the park also is welcome.
Jack: You can support the VVMP by mailing your donations to P. O. Box 131221, Dayton, Ohio, 45413-1222. You also may send your gift to The Dayton Foundation, in care of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park Fund, or give online at www.daytonfoundation.org/ccgift.html.
Q: Why is it important to support our veterans and the VVMP?
Jack: We should never forget our veterans. When you support causes that benefit veterans, you help them to deal with any needs they may have as a result of their service to our country.
Mark: Donations that support the VVMP are vital to the upkeep of the park and ensure that it will be here for future generations to enjoy.
Q: Please share an interesting experience you’ve had through your involvement with the VVMP.
Mark: I have met many interesting people over the years. One involved a WWII Women’s Army Corps veteran. She hadn’t received her medals for her service during WWII, almost 71 years prior. I had the honor of presenting the medals to her. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Jack: The most significant memories for me were when I met relatives of men on the memorial. They were deeply touched by the fact that their man was listed on the “Ring of Remembrance.”
Q: What inspires you about the Greater Dayton community?
Mark: The community suffered a severe economic downturn in recent years. Even through hard times, the people of Dayton have come together to begin turning things around. Together, the community will move forward with the same spirit that has made Dayton a longstanding center of invention and innovation.
Q: How does The Dayton Foundation help you help others?
Mark: Through sound management of our endowment fund, The Dayton Foundation has enabled us to assist others in the Dayton area. When you support community needs, you help those who need help most.
Q: How would you complete this sentence, “My giving makes me feel____”?
Mark: … that I have helped someone in need.
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The Dayton Foundation has been helping people help others since 1921 by managing charitable funds, awarding grants to nonprofits and launching community initiatives. Contact the Foundation at (937) 222-0410 or visit www.daytonfoundation.org.