SCALNC honors Vietnam veterans, dedicates scenic overlook
Published 3:30 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2022
By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer
MONTEVALLO – A special ceremony at the Alabama National Cemetery last month honored Vietnam War veterans and marked the completion of a new memorial at the cemetery.
On Tuesday, March 29, the Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery held a special ceremony to commemorate Vietnam War Veterans Day and dedicate the scenic overlook memorial.
The Alabama National Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of the nation’s heroes, including 4,942 Vietnam veterans.
“The cemetery serves as a lasting tribute to the military service and the sacrifice of those willing to lay down their lives for our freedom,” SCALNC Historian and Parliamentarian Johnny Curry said. “A visit to this hallowed ground serves as a moving reminder and debt of gratitude that we all owe, not only to those resting within it, but to their families for their sacrifices as well.”
The ceremony was a tribute to all American men and women who served in Vietnam, from November 1955 to May 1975.
“The Vietnam War was a long and costly affair lasting some 19 years and ending in more than 3 million people, including over 58,000 Americans, who were killed in conflict,” Curry said. “Additionally, an estimated 352,000 Purple Hearts were awarded to those wounded or killed in action, and five members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Birmingham Chapter 2202 are with us today.”
Five years ago, President Donald Trump signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, designating March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Vietnam veterans have not always been honored for their service.
“Due to the political climate at the time, the U.S. military that were returning home from the war were often treated with disrespect and certainly were not given the hero’s welcome they all deserved,” Curry said. “Since the end of the Vietnam War, and especially in more recent years, our country has come a long way in showing Vietnam veterans the respect they deserve. For the last few years, Vietnam veterans have been honored here at this cemetery with the recognition that they answered the call and bravely served when and where called upon by their country.”
A musical tribute was performed by Rob Robinson, son of Vietnam veteran Robert L. Robinson, U.S. Army.
A wreath laying was carried out by Donna Padgett, widow of Vietnam veteran Russell Dean Padgett, U.S. Army, escorted by Vietnam veteran Harvey Nabors, U.S. Navy.
Regarding the scenic overlook memorial, the SCALNC received approval on Dec. 31, 2013 from the National Cemetery Administration to extend the memorial walkway beyond the columbarium to form a scenic overlook of Shoal Creek.
“Families of loved ones interred in this hallowed ground had long asked if we could help find a place for them to come when there was a burial, or anytime they came to visit a loved one,” SCALNC Chairman Emeritus Bob Barefield said, “To remember, reflect or renew their strength.”
The SCALNC broke ground at the project site on Sept. 6, 2019.
Barefield recognized members of the Scenic Overlook Committee, including Stretch Dunn, who he said “poured his heart and soul into the project” before he died in 2017.
SCALNC Fundraising Chair Nancy Barefield led efforts with other volunteers to raise more than $630,000 needed to build the overlook.
“God’s hand could be seen in every phase of the creation of this masterpiece we call the scenic overlook, from the superb artistry of the design of our architect, Sherlock, Smith and Adams, to the craftsmanship of our builders, C&C Contractors,” Bob Barefield said.
The SCALNC officially donated the scenic overlook to the NCA on Jan. 20, 2020, but had to cancel the ribbon cutting scheduled for March 28, 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barefield thanked the ALNC staff for its support of the project and maintenance of the site since its completion, along with all Support Committee members, donors and supporters.
“We had no idea what a long and winding road this project would take or what a blessing it would be for those of us who were involved and led us to this dedication program today,” Barefield said. “Along this emotional journey, God connected us with a multitude of dedicated patriots willing to share their time, experiences, encouragement and generous donations to see the overlook to fruition.”