Vietnam Veterans join to create new memorial

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Vietnam veterans at the Nevada State Prison will create a memorial out of native sandstone, a tribute their fallen comrades.

The names of 151 Nevadans who died in that conflict will be cast in bronze on five plaques, affixed to the hand-carved stone from the Nevada State Prison quarry, then placed at the Vietnam War Memorial in Mills Park.

"People looking west can see the Sierra, giving the memorial a connection with Nevada's landscape," said Vern Krahn, park planner for Carson City Parks and Recreation. "The sandstone gives the memorial a historical flavor because a number of government buildings here are built of the same rock, giving the project a continuity that we like."

No date is set for completion of the memorial, but all materials and labor will be donated by the Vietnam Veterans of America chapters in and out of the prison system.

Silver State Industries, located at Northern Nevada Correctional Center, will cast the bronze. Vietnam Veterans Chapter 719 at Stewart Conservation Camp will provide the labor to set the rocks and members of Chapter 545 at Nevada State Prison will carve the stone. Carson City's Chapter 388, made up of local residents, is organizing the project.

"We have great partnership," Krahn said. "In the past, Carson City vets donated $2,100 toward purchasing the trees planted at the memorial, and for this project they'll bring the inmate crews and materials. We will coordinate the effort, but there is no out-of-pocket expense for us.

"As nice as this project is, it's tough to generate money," he said. "This public-private partnership gives us the ability to enhance our memorial."

Four rocks bearing the names of those who died will be staggered just south of the flagpole, together with a stone bench. Ranging in height from 2 feet to 5 feet, the memorial's five stones will stand on a concrete platform.

"We came up with some artist concepts and gave prison officials the opportunity to look them over to see if the prisoners had the skills and abilities," Krahn said. "We'll be fine-tuning the project as we go. A lot has to do with the availability of stone at the quarry. We'll be looking for certain shapes and thicknesses."

All Vietnam veterans, the prisoners started working with the quarry stone just recently, a success story borne of tragedy.

Prisoners carved a memorial at the request of prison staff following the death of David A. Meligan, warden at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. He died in a motorcycle accident last September.

More requests from other wardens and officials started coming in after completion of that project and a small industry was born. Stones now decorate Vietnam Veterans chapters in both Winnemucca and Las Vegas. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds are used to clean up and improve the prison yard, and prisoners receive the balance.

"The prisoners are self-taught and the more they do, the better they get," said Terry Hubert, correctional caseworker at Nevada State Prison. "They have the time, so when we give them a project, they run with it. They get the chance to express themselves artistically and the experience is invaluable."

The Nevada State Prison, State Museum, Capitol and the Methodist Church are just a few of the historic buildings crafted from this stone, primarily using prison labor. The quarry is on the grounds, just south and a little east of the prison.


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