Now, a story that really shows the values that matter to the Canby community, as clear as…well, as clear as a bell.
The commemorative bell at the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Memorial on Highway 99E was removed by a crane this week and is headed for a full restoration, thanks to Eagle Scout hopeful Ansen Lackner, 14, and his Boys Scout Troop No. 528, based out of Wilsonville.
“Believe in Peace,” the bell originally from a Buddhist temple has told thousands of visitors to the memorial over the years (albeit only if you understood or could translate the Vietnamese inscription). But Ansen found out the bell was “not properly protected from the elements” when it was originally put in, and is now badly rusted.
The bell was removed from the memorial plaza on Monday afternoon and is going to be media blasted, resealed with a long-term, UV-resistant epoxy coating and reinstalled.
As part of his consideration for the rank of Eagle Scout, Ansen is responsible for planning, organizing, fundraising and carrying out the project, with the support of his Troop. (Don’t worry: They didn’t have to actually work the crane.)
Reinstallation has been scheduled for May 9, along with two National Defense Service Medal columns that were included in the original plans for the site but were never actually installed.
Ansen and the Scouts will be there again (with bells on?) to clean the site and prepare it for the artifact’s return. A rededication is expected to take place on Memorial Day, which will be on May 25 this year.
Photos courtesy Ansen Lackner:
The bell sits across from perhaps the plaza’s most distinctive element, the 1970 Bell UH-1 “Huey” medevac helicopter that hovers over the memorial, as if about to continue its life-saving work of airlifting wounded service members to hospitals. (The Huey actually has all the necessary parts and equipment and is — at least in theory — still in working order.)
The plaza, which is also a Blue Star Memorial, was started in 2000 and completed 11 years later with the installation of another centerpiece, the bronze statue known as “A Hero’s Prayer,” which depicts a wounded soldier being carried by another soldier, with a Vietnamese girl holding the wounded soldier’s hand.
The wounded soldier represents Army Spc. Warren E. Newton, of Canby, who was only 18 when he went missing in action on Jan. 9, 1968. The soldier carrying Newton represents Marine Pfc. Gary W. Martini, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing two other Marines during a firefight that killed him on April 21, 1967.
Other elements (like the bell) celebrate Vietnamese culture. The plaza is in the shape of the Asian character “Shou,” which means “long life” or “longevity.” The plants surrounding the memorial also hearken back to the Southeast Asian country, including palm trees and bamboo.
Canby Vietnam veteran Michael Breshears, one of the driving forces behind the memorial, said he wanted it to be a place of peace and healing, a place to remember the men and women who served their country in all wars.
“This is a humanitarian memorial, not a war memorial,” Breshears told The Oregonian in 2010. “It’s about hope. The people in the bronze statue will be looking up at the helicopter that is coming to help them or they could be looking up at the sky in prayer.”
The memorial and park was created through the generosity of the community, with local businesses, organizations, governments and volunteers being heavily involved in making it a reality. The land was donated to the city by The Holland Inc., which owns the neighboring Burgerville.
The site is overseen and maintained by the nonprofit Vietnam Era Veterans Memorial committee, with the support of the Canby/Aurora VFW Post 6057 and other local veterans’ groups.