Wichita Veterans Memorial Park Brouhaha

A recent New York Times article reported on the controversy over adding a new monument to the Wichita, Kansas’ Veterans Memorial Park. Members of the city’s Vietnamese exile community proposed adding a bronze statue of an American solider with his arm around the shoulder of a South Vietnamese comrade soldier in the 3.5-acre park, which is owned city. The Vietnamese monument would symbolize the American-ARVN fight against the Vietnamese communists.

But the plan drew heavy criticism from some American veterans, and the monument will now be built away from the park’s other monuments. In fact, it will sit outside the park, and will be walled off by a six-foot earthen berm.

“The entire park was created solely for America’s veterans who fought America’s wars for America’s armed forces, ” said Philip W. Blake, a World War II veteran who volunteers at the park. “The memorial they wanted was going to be dead center in the park.”

Another veteran, John Wilson, who created a group to oppose placing the memorial inside the park, told The Times that the reaction against the memorial is not anti-Vietnamese. “This doesn’t have anything to do with being Vietnamese, ” he said. “This is about serving in the American military. That’s it.”

The Wichita City Council, The Times said, “approved the new plan — berm and all — on a 7-to-0 vote. The Council made it clear that Veterans Memorial Park was meant to honor American service members exclusively and gave veterans’ groups a role in deciding what types of memorials to include in the future.”

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