A memorial to Utahns who died or are missing in Vietnam will heal wounds, and its inscription should be a personal message written by Utahns, according to veterans who lobbied the Legislature this past session to make the memorial a reality.

Members of the Vietnam Era Veterans Memorial Committee said Tuesday they have started a statewide contest to decide what to inscribe on a wall planned behind an 8-foot bronze statue of an American soldier in Vietnam. The committee will place the statue and wall, complete with the names of 364 Utahns, on the grounds west of the State Capitol.Four final entries will be chosen by a 15-member panel of judges including local media personalities and Utah Jazz President Frank Layden. Twelve of the judges are Vietnam veterans.

The final inscription will either be from one person or from a combination of ideas in the four final entries.

H. Keith Haines, spokesman for the group, said veterans of the war want the memorial to be personal and intimate for Utahns. The statue was designed by former Utahn Clyde Ross Morgan.

"From the start, this has been the citizens of Utah saying thanks to the veterans of Utah," Haines said, explaining why the group did not simply chose an appropriate quotation for the memorial. "What we're trying to do is bring an opportunity for people to express themselves."

Pearl B. Rex, mother of a soldier listed as missing in action, said the memorial will serve to unite families and loved ones separated by the war.

"If they have a part in selecting the quotation, it will be theirs," she said.

The contest is open to all state residents. Entries must be no more than 150 words and must be double-spaced. Haines said entrants should put their name, address, phone number and their reason for entering on a separate sheet of paper. Names should not be put on the actual entry.

Contestants are asked to donate $10 to help with the $70,000 the group still needs to pay for the memorial.

Haines said all entries must be postmarked by April 15 and sent to VEVMC Inc., P.O. Box 148, Provo 84603.

The committee has had trouble raising money for the statue. Members say they have met with reluctance from local business leaders who think the war was too unpopular. But the committee has raised about $229,000 and recently was given $116,000 from the Legislature to cover the cost of shipping granite from Georgia. The committee also bought marble from India.