DUCHESNE — More than one person in the crowd of hundreds wiped away tears Saturday as Rod Harrison described the smells and sounds of combat that still haunt his memories.
"The stench of a swampy Mekong paddy full of leeches. The angry snap of an AK-47 round with its green tracer," Harrison said, going on to describe mortar attacks, napalm explosions, deadly booby traps and lethal ambushes.
"And the 1 million-candlelight flares lighting up the battlefields where American men and boys, who knew the whole lousy enterprise was futile, fought and died," Harrison said, his voice choking with emotion. "Not something you want to dwell on, not something you can ever forget."
A member of the 9th Infantry Division's "Hardcore Battalion" during the Vietnam War, Harrison helped dedicate a new memorial Saturday that honors Duchesne County residents who served in America's armed forces.
The memorial features three sculptures created by St. George artist Jerry Anderson — a bald eagle perched atop a bell, a bronze soldier standing over a fallen buddy's empty boots with his head bowed and an officer in the WAVES, the all-women's division of the U.S. Navy that was formed in World War II.
"I think all the women should be recognized when we talk about veterans," Anderson said after unveiling the statues Saturday.
The memorial also features a number of black granite walls that pay tribute to Duchesne County veterans dating back to the American Civil War.
"As we look at these names on the wall, each name isn't just a name chiseled in granite," said Duchesne Mayor RoJean Rowley. "It's a story behind each one of these names that we hope people will remember."
The memorial project was the result of countless hours of work by a citizen committee over the past year, the mayor said. It was built largely with donations from community members and area businesses.
"It's something that has been needed for a long time," said Rowley, who served on the memorial committee. "We're so grateful for our veterans. They've served and as long as our American flag is flying, we know we're free."
The names of Duchesne County veterans will continue to be added to the memorial as they are provided to the committee, Rowley said. Anyone who wants to submit a name for inclusion on the memorial should call Duchesne City at 435-738-2464.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: GeoffLiesik
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company