The Orange Leader
The Lutcher Stark Class of 1964 is remarkable in that 40% of its members are veterans. The class had 40 of its 100 graduates either enlist in the military or become draftees. Some would serve in National Guard or Reserve units, some would serve in active duty, some would see combat in Vietnam. Each of these veterans, especially those who served in combat has a tie with other veterans that can only be understood by veterans.
The Association is undertaking the ambitious project of building an Orange County Vietnam War Memorial. The Stark 64 Veterans Association is open for anyone to join. There are three categories, the veterans that are members of the Class of 1964, any veteran who wishes to join and be a part of the activities of the association, and any non veteran who wishes to be a veteran supporter.
Jerry Gatch serves as the Commander of the Association. There officers and an auxiliary of ladies from the Class of 1964.
When Gatch found that the Vidor Lions Club was building a veterans memorial park in Vidor, he contacted Derrick Bolt, president of the Vidor Lions Club and met with him about building a park specific to the memory of the 28 men from Orange County who were killed in Vietnam. Bolt and his club were quick to agree and to give the Stark Vets space to adjoin the two parks.
Gatch has taken information that he complied about the 28 men who were killed and published it in a book titled “28 Men Fell”. There are short bios, pictures of each man and newspaper clippings and copies of citations for decorations.
Proceeds from the sale of the book go to the construction of the park. The book is currently available at Luvs Lingerie in Bridge City and through members of American Legion Post 250 of Bridge City-Orangefield, and will soon be available in other locations in the Orange area.
Tom Windham, a local artist and graduate of the Stark Class of 1970 is working with Gatch on the concept of the park. The preliminary sketches are ready for viewing and show a horse shoe shaped wall. On the outside of the wall will be murals depicturing scenes from Vietnam. On the inside wall will be a slanted top that will contain 10” X 16” black granite plaques with the names, pictures, unit crests, and information about each of the 28 fallen warriors. The plaques will be laser engraved and full colored.
The end of the horse shoe will be taller that the side walls and contain the name of the memorial and additional scenes similar to those on the side walls.
In the center of the memorial will be a bench and in front of the bench a flag pole that will fly the United States Flag and the Flag of the Republic of Vietnam.
Windham has extensive experience in painting murals of the type that will be in this memorial. He has painted public murals on buildings in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and Jasper, Texas. After the designs of the murals are worked out Windham and his daughter, Melissa Windham Neill, also an artist will do the painting on the concrete walls. At the present time Neill is researching the best type of paint to use for the project and also whether a base coat of some kind will be needed before the paint is applied.
American Legion Post 250 is what could be considered a “co-sponsor” of the project. The Post membership has embraced the project and is giving full cooperation.
In addition the American Legion, there are several Boy Scout troops who are lining up to help. Bubba Lexicon is the Scoutmaster of Troop 62, BSA and has been visiting with Gatch about the memorial being used as projects for prospective Eagle Scouts. The Scouts could do parts of the construction project as their Eagle Scout Project.
In the preface to “28 Men Fell”, Gatch writes, “Those of us who returned from Vietnam came back to a nation seemingly upset with us for following orders. No one said ‘Welcome Home.’ We were not told, ‘thank you for your service.’ Most who had served just put aside their memories, grew their hair longer and rarely discussed their military experiences.
But, we were the lucky ones. The 28 men featured in this collection never had a chance to face their angry nation because they died in service to that very nation. The purpose of the Orange County Vietnam War Memorial is to serve as a final permanent ‘Welcome Home’ tribute to those brave heroes who paid the ultimate price in the war of our generation.”
The cost of the project is expected to be in excess of $25,000.
To donate to the memorial, or to otherwise help this effort, please contact Jerry Gatch at: 409-920-4601. You may also contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books may be ordered by mail from: Jerry Gatch, 5 Circle D, Orange, Texas 77630. The price of the book is $30.00 plus $3.00 shipping.