When Cynthia Allen got her first up-close look at the poor, dilapidated state into which the Lompoc Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial had fallen, she said she didn’t think it would take much to give it a makeover.
At the time, the Rancho Purisima Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), on which Allen serves as the historic preservation chair, had just undertaken restoration of the memorial as one of its projects.
“We started out with high hopes that elbow grease and a few new tiles was all that was needed,” she said Friday. “We spent the day furiously scrubbing, trying every nontoxic trick in the book.”
It was then, she said, that the group knew it would need help.
Over the last several months, many other organizations and members of the community pitched in money and/or labor to help bring the memorial back to its former glory.
The end result of that work was on full display Friday afternoon during a rededication ceremony that conveniently coincided with Veterans Day.
“It took twice as long as we anticipated, and four times the money, but I have to say that the result is stunning,” Allen said of the new-look memorial.
About 75 people, including several local veterans, were on hand for the event, which doubled as a ceremony to remember and recognize all veterans.
Among the speakers, in addition to Allen, were Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl, who is a veteran himself, Vietnam veterans Bob Hatch and Joe McCormick and Chief Master Sgt. Robert Bedell, the command chief master sergeant of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
All of the speakers commented on the importance of remembering and respecting veterans, a courtesy that apparently wasn’t extended to the Lompoc Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The memorial site, which was initially dedicated in 1992 to recognize 15 Lompoc-area veterans who died in the Vietnam War, had fallen into what many felt was a state of disrepair due to weather, vandalism and general neglect.
Thanks to fundraisers organized by the DAR and the generosity of locals who donated their time and labor, restoration work began on the memorial this summer. That work included removing old damaged tiles, scraping away residue, rebuilding parts of the memorial, applying waterproofing and setting new granite and slate tiles.
At Friday’s ceremony, Lingl offered a solution to keep the site from returning to that damaged state.
He asked that everyone pledge to visit the site regularly and “pull a few weeds, sweep the leaves and dirt on the walkways, maybe polish up the granite, because we can never, ever allow this memorial to go into the disrepair and disrespect that it did fall into.”
Hatch said it was “disgraceful” that the memorial fell into the condition it did and said he’d continue to check on it and do his part to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
Hatch, who was introduced as one of the most decorated veterans on the Central Coast, was present for the memorial’s initial dedication 24 years ago and said he was proud to see it once again in top condition.
“I don’t think that anybody can be more grateful than I am for their work on this,” he said, after noting some of the people who were instrumental in the restoration. “I saw it in the pristine condition when it was constructed and I saw it again for the first time fully restored today and I think you all will agree with me that it’s just magnificent.”
McCormick, who is the commander of the VFW Post 570 and the American Legion Post 125, encouraged everyone to be proactive in maintaining the memorial.
“If you see something wrong, say something,” he said. “If you see something not right, say something. That’s what we’re all gonna be charged to do as stewards and citizens of the city of Lompoc.”
McCormick, who had organized Memorial Day ceremonies at the site for nearly 20 years, had an especially close view of the memorial’s downfall.
He said he had to stop holding events at the site a few years ago due to its “deplorable” condition. He said Friday, however, that the self-imposed embargo may be coming to an end.
“I promise you Memorial Day coming (up in 2017), we will have a ceremony in this fine place,” he said.