Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial dedication set

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11170383931548.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of AXIS Publishing’, ‘The Vietnam Veterans LZ Peace Memorial at Midway Village & Museum Center, 6799 Guilford Rd., will be dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30. A candlelight vigil will be held at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 29.’);

After more than 20 years of work, the Vietnam Veterans LZ Peace Memorial will be dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30. Ceremonies will be at 2 p.m. at Midway Village & Museum Center, 6799 Guilford Rd. A candlelight vigil will be held at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 29.

The LZ (Landing Zone) memorial will feature a Huey, the helicopter used to take soldiers into fighting zones and evacuate wounded during the war. It includes a black granite wall engraved with the 71 names of soldiers; 69 Winnebago County men who died in the war and two declared missing in action. The 71 names will be read at the candlelight vigil.

Tony Bove of the Vietnam Veterans’ Honor Society said the money for the memorial came mostly from corporations that wanted to donate. “We also had a state grant,” he said. “We had various contributions throughout the year to put it all together. We had personal donations, but the majority of it came from corporate funds.”

One new name to be included is John Berg, a disabled veteran from Rockford who died on Oct. 10, 2003. His widow, Lynn, contributed the following information: His life was cut short by wounds inflicted during the Vietnam War. He was hit April 7, 1968, and received two Purple Hearts. He remained active in the veteran community and was one of the six founders of VietNow. Berg was a life member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and was commander from 1991 until October 2003. He was employed for 25 years as a veterans’ representative for the state of Illinois. He was a life member of the VFW on Windsor Road and belonged to the American Legion Post in Rockton.

Berg had musical interests as well. He learned how to play the piano with just one hand. He sang in the Mendelssohn Club and was an active member for many years in the Rock Valley Chorale. He loved traveling and enjoyed evenings at the Symphony. During his illness, he was sustained by the faith he had been taught by his loving, devoted parents, Harold and Vergene.

“Going to the wall and seeing his name and touching his name, I know that emotions will run deep,” said his widow. “I know John felt the pain of all those names of all those young men that never came home, just as the rest of the veterans do. For some, they will never forget; the hurt and pain will always be with them.”

Another member of the veterans’ group, Nick “Black Jack Six” Parnello, provided some history on how the group was started. “The helicopter we flew in had an Ace of Spades and Jack of Diamonds on front, so we called ourselves the Black Jack Unit. Gen. (John J.) Pershing from World War I had that nickname.”

Parnello remembers John Berg fondly. “John was a good friend of mine,” he recalled. “Joe Falzone and I started the VietNow group in Rockford in 1979. We met in Vietnam in 1969 and promised that if we ever got back to the world, we would keep meeting. So I told Joey, let’s see if we can get some vets together. That group grew to become the VietNow group, which is national now, but it started in Rockford. (The group presently has 40 chapters throughout the country.) Then we started the Vietnam Veterans’ Honor Society in 1984. I started with three other guys (Tony Bove, Paul Cassioppi and Tony Circelli). The original part of our group came about because of a meeting in Vietnam in 1969. On Joey’s (Falzone) birthday, he was in a stand-down coming into the base camp. Another guy happened to be in that base camp (from Rockford), and he said Joey Falzone’s going to be coming in the next day. We met there the next day, and he came over to my unit, and we sat up at a fire base (where all the artillery units are located) all night long, talking about the world, going home, and said if we ever get home, we will have a big steak at Maria’s.

“That started another group called the Vietnam Veterans’ Supper Club. Every first Tuesday of the month since Joe and I and many other veterans came back, we met for dinner. Now there are anywhere from eight to 20 guys who get together every month… A lot of things happened because of that one meeting; it was a love affair. Joe and I both knew we had been through it. I had been there a year, and he had been there a year and was extending for a few months. That’s what a lot of guys did so they could get out of the Army earlier. If you have served more time in the combat zone, they could get out early.”

Parnello got the idea for the memorial in a dream in which he saw the name “LZ Peace.” The helicopter seemed symbolic as a focal point to honor not only those who died in Vietnam, but those who survived. He had a difficult time obtaining a Huey helicopter, but finally he ran into Jim Grimes, general manager for WIFR-TV. Both Grimes and then-state Rep. Lynn Martin helped him get the Huey. “They knew some congresspeople in Florida, and politically put some pressure on them to get it done,” he recalled.

As a final thought, Parnello added, “Freedom isn’t free, and for those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor that, protected, we’ll never know.”

Following are the other Winnebago County residents killed or listed as MIA in Vietnam, followed by the person’s hometown and the date the casualty was reported:

John Alberts, South Beloit, May 1966

James Ascher, Winnebago, January 1969

Melvin Ballard, Rockford, March 1967

Ralph Barcelona, Rockford, June 1969

Norman Beck, Rockford, March 1969

Larry Bell, Rockford, November 1965

Wayne Blake, Rockford, August 1970

Alan Boyer, Rockford, MIA March 1968

George Butler, Durand, May 1967

Arnoldo Cardenas, Rockford, June 1966

Curtis Challberg, Loves Park, August 1969

Eldon Coldren Jr., Rockford, September 1968

Daniel Coleman, Rockford, February 1969

Michael Collins, Rockford, September 1969

Michael Dagnon, Rockford, October 1969

John Davis, South Beloit, April 1969

Earmon Derrington, Rockford, September 1969

Martin DeMarzio, Rockford, March 1970

John Didier Jr., Rockford, March 1970

Curtis Duckett, Rockford, June 1967

George Fanis Jr., Rockford, December 1967

Patrick Finch, Rockford, June 1969

David Flaningam, Rockford, July 1967

Thomas Glawe, Rockford, June 1966

Thomas Goebel, Rockford, October 1970

Ray Gonce, Loves Park, October 1966

David Gulbrantson, Rockford, August 1968

Richard Hawks, Rockford, July 1967

Ronnie Hawks, Rockford, December 1969

Daniel Hoffman, Rockford, October 1971

John R. Hornsby, Rockford, March 1969

Michael Ingrassia, Rockford, August 1968

John Jensen, Rockford, October 1967

Daniel Johnson, Rockford, May 1968

Henry Johnson, Rockford, March 1968

Gerald Kiesling, Rockford, July 1968

Larry Knight, Rockford, June 1967

Terry Larsen, Rockford, May 1969

Steve Lee, Rockford, August 1968

J.I. Lyles, Rockford, February 1967

Notley Maddox, Rockford, MIA May 1967 u Larry McGhee, Rockford, August 1969

Michael McGlothlin, Pecatonica, February 1969

Michael McKinison, Pecatonica, January 1966

Donald Meehan Jr., Rockford, February 1971

Gary Mizner, Rockford, October 1971

Philip Nichols, Rockford, May 1969

David Nicholson, Rockford, January 1968

Lawrence Orsborn, Rockford, October 1968

James Owens, Rockford, August 1969

Stanley Patterson, Loves Park, July 1967

Wallis Patterson, Rockford, May 1969

Robert Pearson, Rockford, April 1967

Feliz Perris, Loves Park, August 1965

Roderick Rodenbeck, Rockford, February 1967

Henry Sanders, Rockford, March 1969

Kris Shaw, Rockford, July 1969

Lora Snyder, Rockford, April 1970

Gordon Stark, Rockford, February 1967

Charles Tarbert, Pecatonica, December 1969

A.W. Tripplett, Rockford, November 1966

Ronald Van Wambeke, Rockford, January 1969

Marcelino Vargas Jr., Rockford, March 1970

John Vowles, Cherry Valley, January 1969

Harold Werle, Roscoe, June 1967

Kenneth White, Rockford, May 1969

Jerry Wickam, Rockford, January 1968 (the only Winnebago County Congressional Medal of Honor awardee)

Lonnie Williams, Rockford, November 1968

Robert Williams, Rockford, May 1967

John Woolbright, Rockford, September 1968

Kurt Zimm

erman, Durand, January 1968

Organizers of the event request that families of the servicemen contact them so they can be officially invited to the dedication. Call (815) 962-0412 for details.

From the May 25-31, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!