ARLINGTON -- Hung Thien Dang was a teenager in early 1980 when he and his two brothers fled communist Vietnam by boat to Thailand.Dang and his brothers eventually made their way to America that year as refugees. Their father, a Republic of Vietnam army colonel, wasn't as lucky. He spent 13 years as a prisoner of war after the fall of Saigon, Dang said.Dang, now a doctor in Arlington, doesn't want people to forget the sacrifices made by American and Vietnamese soldiers and their families during the Vietnam War, which ended nearly four decades ago. He and other local Vietnamese community leaders are raising money for a planned Vietnam War memorial at Veterans Park in Arlington."Without their sacrifices, we wouldn't be here," said Dang, chairman of the Heroes of South Vietnam Memorial Foundation. "They fought for us. They died for us. We have to do something to recognize that."The foundation has raised about $110,000 of the $400,000 needed for the proposed memorial at 3600 W. Arkansas Lane. Plans include a specially commissioned sculpture of a Vietnamese and an American soldier, American and South Vietnam flags, a donor wall, and obelisks representing the countries that fought in the war and the Americans and Vietnamese missing in action.Peter Dao, who works for Dallas Vietnamese Radio in Arlington, said he hopes the memorial educates future generations and gives Vietnam veterans a place where they can "reflect with their comrades."Three of Dao's brothers served in the South Vietnamese army. One of them, an interpreter for American Green Berets, was fatally shot during the conflict."It's something a lot of people desire in their hearts, American and Vietnamese," said Dao, who also serves on the organization's board.Thong Quang Bui was a paratrooper for the Republic of Vietnam Airborne Division before coming to America in 1975. For him, the memorial will pay tribute to the American soldiers "who fought with me side by side" and "died in the war for the freedom of South Vietnam.""We fought very gallantly together. We helped each other very much," said Bui, president of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Veterans Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter and vice president of the Heroes of South Vietnam Memorial Foundation.Arlington was selected because of its central location in Dallas-Fort Worth, its large Vietnamese population and an existing memorial at Veterans Park, organizers said.The Vietnam War memorial is expected to be complete as early as 2014, Dang said. The City Council is scheduled to vote this year on an agreement with the nonprofit organization that calls for Arlington to maintain the site for an estimated $6,500 per year. Expenses include mowing, litter control, water and electricity.Any additional money raised by the organizers will go toward the next two phases of a larger, privately funded veterans memorial for all wars that's under construction in the park, Dang said.That memorial, a project of the Rotary Clubs of Arlington that began in 2006, features a bronze statue of a World War II soldier and flags and will eventually include a colonnade and seating area as private money and grants become available.Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578Twitter @susanschrock
To learn more about the proposed Vietnam War memorial project at Veterans Park in Arlington or to donate to the Heroes of South Vietnam Memorial Foundation, visit www.hsvnmf.org.