SOLANA BEACH — Looking at the Solana Beach Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Jack Frazier sees more than the names of six city residents who lost their lives in that war. Next to the names are the hearts of the mothers, children and other family members left behind by those “who sacrificed so America can remain free,” said Frazier, a Vietnam veteran and the keynote speaker at the March 25 dedication ceremony.
Those local fallen soldiers are Harvey Aiau, Raphael Cruz, Charles Henricks, Victor Lopez, Thomas Mericantante and Michael Tworek. Almost exactly a month away from his 19th birthday when a fragmentation weapon took his life, Mericantante is the youngest of the warriors.
Speaking at times through tears, Frazier recalled his life after the war. He said it took him a long time to come to grips with the way they were treated when they returned home. The soldiers of that generation left their youth in Vietnam. It’s “well past time we honored” them, he said.
Frazier said he was hesitant to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., after it was dedicated in 1982. A desire to see the names of his three cousins who served in the Tet Offensive helped him overcome that reluctance.
At first, he said, he was “numb” and felt “no emotion at all.” By the end of the trip, he viewed the wall as a “catharsis” that “served to heal.”
“It reminds us of the open wounds on our souls,” he said.
For the first time since coming home from the war, he felt peace, Frazier said. He said he realized “all of the wonderful things life has bestowed on me are things those people will never have.”
For many, the closure of Vietnam has not come, Frazier said. Walls such as the one in our nation’s capital can help. For those who cannot travel to Washington, monuments like the one in Solana Beach are just as important.
“We need these memorials to remember,” said Frazier, who is primarily responsible for a larger monument in Carlsbad that includes the names of more than 125 North County soldiers who died in Vietnam.
The ceremony also included the rededication of the adjacent World War II memorial erected in 1948. The eight Solana Beach residents who gave their lives in that war are Joseph Chiles, Jesus Covarrubias, Frank Dawson, Richard Dosé, Walter Hunt, Dick Lynde, Joseph Mettam and Pedro Osorio.
Both monuments can be viewed at the corner of Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Coast Highway 101.