Veterans break ground on Camp Pendleton Vietnam War memorial

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for a Vietnam War memorial on Camp Pendleton.

The monument is in honor of the 2,706 Marines and sailors from the 5th Marine Regiment who died and the 14,000 Marines and corpsmen who died during the Vietnam War.

The color guard kicked off the service at the 5th Marines Memorial Garden at Camp San Mateo in Camp Pendleton.

“It’s a very special day. It allows us to know this memorial is a reality now,” said Steve Colwell, who spearheaded the project.

Four years of hard work from volunteers and fundraising to get the memorial approved has paid off. But for Colwell, it has been something he has wanted for much longer. As an infantry officer in the 5th Marine Regiment, its close to his heart. Colwell was badly wounded on December 16, 1967 when some of his own Marines were killed fighting alongside him.

“I know these guys going on the wall. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and if we don’t do this now, if we don’t recognize these brave men who came home to a country that was divided, then it probably won't happen,” said Colwell.

The monument is currently being manufactured in Vermont and will go travel across the country on March 15 for its dedication ceremony on May 28.

“We’re all brothers so we recognize these men here from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom over there. The Purple Heart memorial, this is home to them and it’s important to know they're all with their brothers,” said Colwell.

Many of those Vietnam brothers from different regiments were there Friday. They say after years of battling the hardships upon returning home from war, they’ve moved forward but will never forget.

“This is going to be here a long time and many people will appreciate it,” said Mike Joseph, a Marine and former Captain who served in the Vietnam War.

For more information on how to help the 5th Marines Vietnam Memorial, visit 5thmarinesvietnammemorial.org, call 858-395-7344 or email sbarcch@gmail.com.