The Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds is a Mixture of Art, Nature and Tradition

Silhouettes of soldiers saluting and vietnam Campaign Ribbon with text Vietnam War Veteran.-cm

By:  Steve Bates

The design of the Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Grounds is more than a traditional memorial.  While the memorial is meant to honor all Vietnam veterans and all who served in the United States Military from 1955-1975, it includes symbolism and visual art.

Because of skyrocketing construction costs, the memorial was divided into two phases.  Rather than waiting for full funding, it was determined that a portion of the memorial should be constructed in 2024.  Phase 1 is close to becoming a reality.  The construction documents are completed and the building permit process has been started.  On March 29, 2024, the 50th Vietnam Veterans Day, a ground breaking ceremony took place.

The location of the memorial will be to the south of the World War II Memorial in Willson Park of the Oregon State Capitol Park.  The southwest corner of Willson Park is located near the junction of State and Cottage streets.  This area includes many mature trees and plantings.  All of the existing trees are included in the design of the memorial to embrace nature as a means to create a memorial that will be inviting and a place of reflection.

Phase 1 includes the following features and elements:

  • A column wall of 46 Pennsylvania black granite columns
  • A tribute to all military branches that served in Vietnam
  • A “Welcome Home” Exhibit
  • A list of almost 800 names of Oregonians who died in Vietnam
  • A tribute to those who came home and suffered because of their service
  • A sculpture entitled “A Soldier’s Return” by Libby Carruth
  • A gathering area
  • A donor recognition exhibit

Unlike the adjacent World War II Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial will have a column wall.  The World War II Memorial has a solid L shaped wall.  This symbolizes the solid support of the citizenry for the war effort. The Vietnam War Memorial will have a series of columns to make the L shaped memorial wall; not a solid wall, but a broken wall.  This symbolizes the division of the war effort support and the fractured society that resulted.

One of the columns will bear the engraved emblems of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard; the five military branches that were engaged in the Vietnam War.

At each entrance, there will be a “Welcome Home” column.  The engraved exhibit will detail the lack of respect that the Vietnam veterans received when they came home and explain why Vietnam veterans developed this greeting to honor one another.

The memorial columns will list the Oregonians who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.
The names will include the military rank title of these heroes.  The names will be listed by community/home of record for ease of location.  There will be special designations for those Missing in Action and Medal of Honor recipients.

Another column is set aside to honor those who came home and suffered from their physical and invisible wounds that resulted from their service in addition to those who suffered from the effects of chemical exposures.

The sculpture by Libby Carruth of Portland depicts a returning soldier that is apparently saluting the flag, but, his face shows a confused look and his hand is gripping his shirt demonstrating the frustration of the returning Vietnam soldier who was ridiculed for serving his country with dignity and honor.

The gathering area with bench seating will allow various types of events to take place at the memorial.

Finally, a donor recognition exhibit will bear the names of those who donated $5,000 or more to help finance the project.

This Vietnam Veterans Memorial will be unlike any other.  It will be a place of reflection where art, nature and tradition are intertwined.

Additional funding is needed to complete this memorial.

Contributions can be made by credit card at:

Or, by sending a check to:
Vietnam War Memorial Fund
P O Box 1448
Boring, Oregon 97009

About the author:  Steve Bates has resided in Boring for 47 years and is a Life Member of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America and an Honorary Life Member of the Vietnam Veterans of America.  He serves as Chair of the Committee on Memorials and Remembrance and President of the Vietnam War Memorial Fund.  He can be reached at: