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South Vietnamese Figure Removed from Texas' Vietnam War Memorial

Matthew Alvarez for KUT News

The Texas State Preservation Board voted Friday to move forward with a proposed Vietnam War veterans' monument at the Texas Capitol. The final design features American combat troops – and not a South Vietnamese solider as initially proposed.

In 2005, the Texas Legislature authorized a Vietnam War memorial for the Texas Capitol grounds. The proposed design featured several combat-weary soldiers – one of them a South Vietnamese solider. But the backers of the memorial, the Texas Capitol Vietnam Monument Committee, chose to remove that figure. The preservation board approved the final design Friday. 

Franklin Mendez, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran, told the board the monument should reflect its historical origins.

“In my opinion, it is about those of us that went from Texas, served our country, gave up ourselves and our lives in many cases … And that is what this monument is all about…nothing more, nothing less.”

Mendez served in the United States Marine Corps from 1963 to 1967. He says he’s not opposed to honoring Vietnamese veterans who served in the war, but says this specific monument is about Texans.

“I just feel that this particular monument should be about Texans giving what they had, doing their duty, and honoring those of us or those of them who gave their lives.”

Among those to voice their opposition to removing the Vietnamese solider was computer engineer Kelly Helm. He said he had seen the Vietnamese community contribute to funding the monument, and felt removal of the figure would be unjust.

“They presented a monument for five years to this community, and took money from this community, and then at the last minute vote to change it,” Helm said. “I consider that inappropriate as far as anybody’s concerned.”   

The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument is scheduled to be dedicated in March 2014.

Correction: This blog has been updated to reflect the removal of the South Vietnamese figure was proposed by the Texas Capitol Vietnam Monument Committee, not the State Preservation Board. The board acted on the committee's proposal. 

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