LINCOLN — It's been a long time coming, but old friends Ed Fox and Joe Buss finally have a date for the presentation of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial monument. It's something in which the duo have dreamed for the town for at least four decades.
On Saturday, May 21, at 1 p.m., the two Lincolnites will unveil the granite memorial – which now stands covered by a black nylon, Prisoner of War flag-like material knitted by Fox' wife, Patty – during a ceremony outside The Center (for seniors) on Jenckes Hill Road.
“Patty and I just picked Saturday, May 21, off the calendar, and then we noticed it was Armed Forces Day; I was surprised,” said Fox, who with Buss set the idea in motion nearly two years ago. “We sure picked the right day.”
Initially, the Foxes and Buss wanted to dedicate the stone last Memorial Day, and then the ensuing Veterans Day, but The Center hadn't opened yet. Town officials conducted a grand opening celebration there last Nov. 20, and they didn't want to interfere with that special event.
Now the only thing worrying Patty Fox, one of three members of an “unofficial” Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee, is a four-letter, weather-related term, and it's not snow.
“I've been checking the extended forecast on the Internet for three months now, and I'm desperate for the sun to shine,” Patty said semi-seriously. “I've been studying the Farmer's Almanac, and it says ...” She hesitated, not wanting to state the obvious.
“I can't,” she said. “It would be bad luck.”
Laughed Ed: “They can't tell what the weather is going to be like from day to day, and she's looking ahead three months!”
“I'm so nervous!” Patty noted. “I want it to go perfectly. I want people walking away to say, 'What a beautiful ceremony! What an outstanding recognition for Vietnam veterans, who all those years ago didn't get a proper welcoming home.'”
Dave Sale, the town's Recycling Manager/Facilities Director, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. When the couple asked him late last summer, Sale responded, “Are you kidding? Yes!”
“I was so honored; I've known Patty's family for years. I remember when her father, Larry D'Alfonso, ran the Larry's Lincoln Gulf (gas) station on Great Road,” Sale mentioned as the trio sat in The Center's conference room Thursday afternoon. “I wholeheartedly agree with what they've done in creating this monument.
“Those soldiers, those vets, never did get the proper recognition or appreciation for serving in Vietnam, and what better place to have a reminder of their sacrifices than at The Center,” he continued. “The public, those who attend, will notice how outstanding the monument is. Honestly, it's one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.”
The black-and-gray stone – complete with a large, waving American flag and the phrase “1959-1975 IN HONOR OF VIETNAM VETERANS” etched underneath – stands three feet tall and five feet wide, and has a depth of eight inches. Its all-gray, granite platform is eight inches wider and longer than the monument on all sides.
Fox and Buss ordered it from Caron Rock of Ages Memorials, 339 Daggett Ave., Pawtucket, months ago. They claimed back in March 2010 that the stone tablet was being shipped from South Africa, one of the only places worldwide black granite could be found. It then traveled to Vermont for servicing/etching.
The monument cost a little more than anticipated, about $12-13,000, but the couple stated it couldn't have been purchased without the help of donations and a raffle produced by Ed Fox' long-time friend Steve Barbato, who hails from Warwick.
Ed and Patty Fox spent almost seven months – between January and July 2010 – designing a monument that would mean so much to so many.
“We worked with Lynn Boisclair, and we tweaked the design for all that time,” Patty said. “We went through a lot of changes with the graphics because we wanted the perfect waving flag; we wanted it to look like a flag unfurling in the wind. Lynn was terrific. She had a lot of patience with us as we made adjustments.”
Ed Fox, now 64, served with the 815th Combat Engineers Division as a sergeant (E-5), and Buss, 63, with the 198th Light Infantry Brigade (Spec 4) for a year before suffering an injury. The tandem well remember the TET Offensive, a set of surprise, massive Communist attacks in 1968, that some view as the turning point of the “conflict.”
Both are listed, militarily, as “first survivors” of those attacks.
Patty wanted every highlight date to have special meaning, so she chose May 6 – the couple's 39th wedding anniversary – to have Caron Rock of Ages' representatives set the stone next to the flagpole at The Center.
Early in the ceremony, members of the R.I. National Guard's Military Funeral Honors Unit will hoist the same flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. D.C. on July 12, 2010; it did so only in honor of this particular event in Lincoln.
“July 12 is Ed's birthday,” Patty revealed proudly. “Like I said, a lot of things have special meaning.”
Their grandson, six-year-old Tanyon Fox, will deliver the Pledge of Allegiance, and that will be followed by Specialist Francesca Simone of the 88th Army Band and the R.I. National Guard, who will sing the National Anthem.
Guest speakers will include Frances Cartier, Associates Vietnam Veterans of America National Vice President; her husband, Wayne Cartier, VVA's Region 1 Director, of Maine; U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline; State Sen. (Dist. 17) and Lincoln resident Edward J. O'Neill; Raymond E. Gallison Jr., House Committee of Veterans' Affairs Chairman; Steven M. Constantino, Secretary of the Executive Office of R.I. Health and Human Services; retired Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, R.I. Veterans Home Administrator; and Lincoln Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond.
Serving as keynote speaker will be Maj. Gen. Robert T. Bray, the Adjutant General of Rhode Island and Commanding General of the R.I. National Guard.
Immediately following Bray's comments, Ed Fox and Buss will unveil the stone.
Fox and fellow Vietnam vet Lawrence Goucher then will lay a wreath – donated by students and teachers of the Lincoln Public School System and presented by Fox' grandchildren Tanyon and Keian Fox – near the monument. Goucher, Ed Fox' cousin, served with the First Air Cavalry/Div. 1st of 9th from August 1967 to August 1968; also is a first survivor of the TET Offensive; and currently acts as the First President of the VVA's Chapter 818 in Lincoln.
“That whole day is going to be so emotional for a lot of people,” Ed noted. “Just thinking about it, I get a little emotional. There's going to be a lot of tears shed, that's for sure … This has been in my mind for 40 years. Nobody ever said, 'No, you can't do it. It's a bad idea.' There just wasn't an answer.
“This feels great,” he added. “There's nothing like this in town. There's no concrete acknowledgement of those who served in Vietnam.”
The Guard's Military Funeral Honors Unit will issue a “Firing of Volleys,” and the 88th Army Band will play “Taps.” Fr. Phil Salois, President and Chaplain of VVA Chapter 818, will deliver the benediction, and Simone will sing “God Bless America.”
Incredibly, Patty already has received RSVPs from 300 invitees who can't wait to attend the event.
“Just last night, my son, Eric, posted the ceremony information on Facebook, and news also has spread word of mouth,” she said. “It's unbelievable.”
“I'm hoping for 600 or more,” Ed smiled. “That would be a perfect ending ...”
Patty finished her husband's sentence, “To a perfect dream.”
Refreshments – coffee, hors d'oeuvres and a special cake – will be served after the ceremony.