New Freedom Park statue honors Vietnam vets

June 13, 2019

The new Vietnam War statue salutes both our brave soldiers and the canines that served with them.

By Steve Landon

They didn’t come home to celebrations or fan fare when the Vietnam War ended in 1973 they simply came home and vanished into the work place. Unlike the soldiers of past wars Veterans of this unpopular war were often ridiculed and degraded by protesters in the 60’s and 70’s. While they served their country with honor, bravery and dignity they never got respect they so deserved until years later. While it came much to late Vietnam Veterans are now getting that recognition. This past Sunday Veterans Freedom Park in Harrison unveiled their newest statue paying tribute to veterans and those who sacrificed their lives in Vietnam.

The new bronze statue features an American Vietnam War soldier kneeling with his combat canine. It joins two other statues in the park that remember World War II and the Korean conflict.

Veterans of WW II, Korea, the Gulf War and current conflicts along with their families joined veterans of Vietnam for the unveiling. In all between 300-400 people filled the park. A truly amazing turning out considering rain was in the forecast.

Retired Clare Sheriff Jeff Goyt of Harrison spoke about the major role combat canines played during the war. Goyt served as a dog handler in the Vietnam War. Sadly over 4,000 Sentry Dogs never made it home. In addition to Mr. Goyt others also spoke about the new statue and what it means to area veterans.

Maye Tessner-Rood, the statue project coordinator was very pleased with the event and overall turnout. “The ceremony was a great success.  People from all over Michigan attended. 

We have a great representation from members of the American Legion’s in all four counties the park represents along with VFW members.

A large group of Vietnam Vets step forward to unveil the statue.  They surrounded the area while two veterans handled the unveiling it. They made for an impressive lineup along M-61 in front of the Freedom Park. 
We had no grant money we had nothing when we started. This is a four-year grassroots effort to raise money for the statue’s it has has been a great journey.  We truly have a lot of support from our communities.  This is their park!  It takes a village and I am happy to be a part of this wonderful village.  Over $33,000 was raised to create the new statue.

Tessner-Rood admits said it’s a lot of work with all the fundraisers but it’s really well worth it especially when you get to finally see the reaction of the veterans reactions at the unveiling.

There are spots for two more statues.  I don’t what sequence they will be coming in.  I do know that I am taking time off from fundraising this year to regroup and to spend time with my family.  I have a grandson that is deployed and his family is back in Harrison.  So I plan to spend as much time with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren as possible this next year. So stay tuned for more to come as it develops – she said”.

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