ATHENS — A Vietnam War memorial that spells Vietnam as “VIEINAM” and excludes the names of four fallen servicemen will be replaced Friday.
The monument with the misspelled word has stood outside the Limestone County Courthouse since 1974.
According to Sandy Thompson, the replacement stone comes after Tony Grigsby, a longtime member of the Limestone County Burial Detail, campaigned for years for its correction.
“People have known it was messed up for a long time, but he was the one who really started pushing for it to be changed,” she said, adding the new stone rights a wrong that has existed for 45 years.
Grigsby died before he achieved his goal, but the effort intensified last year when Skip Ferguson, commandant of the local League, approached the Limestone County Commission with a plan to correct it.
In response to news coverage of the request, Paul Goehler, a Vietnam-era veteran, and Pierre Tourney Jr., owner of Clark Memorials in Decatur, agreed to split the cost of replacing the memorial, and Thompson began research to find the omitted names.
After months of work, Tourney said the new monument, made of Georgia granite, weighs more than 2,400 pounds and will have to be installed with a crane truck.
“It’s an honor to be able to do this for all those who have fought and died, giving their lives for their country,” he said.
The new stone corrects the spelling error and adds the names of Cpl. Roy Lee Moore, Seaman Thomas Belue Box, Lt. Morgan William Weed, and Pfc. Ruben Lee Horton, all of whom were inadvertently left off the original stone.
Moore, a mortarman, was 19 when he was killed in action in the Quang Nam Province of South Vietnam. He was excluded from the original monument because he had a Madison mailing address, though he lived in Limestone County and graduated from Trinity High School.
Box was 21 when his destroyer collided with an Australian aircraft carrier, killing 74 sailors aboard. He was omitted from the monument after the military ruled the incident a non-combat accident because it occurred 50 miles outside the combat zone.
Weed, an infantry unit commander, was 25 when he was killed in action in Cambodia in 1970. He was omitted because he had a Decatur address, but Thompson said he was a Limestone County resident.
Horton was 19 days into his tour when he died on a battlefield in Gia Dinh Province, South Vietnam, at the age of 20. He grew up in Athens but moved to Illinois after high school, causing his name to be omitted from the monument.
In addition, two new stones will be placed outside the courthouse, honoring Maj. William Ellis Winter, Lance Cpl. Adam Loggins, and Pfc. Ricky L. Turner.
Winter, a Marine, died in 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon, in a terrorist bombing of his barracks. He was 32.
Loggins, a Marine, was 27 when he was killed in action in 2007 in Iraq. Turner, a U.S. Army soldier, was 20 when he was killed in 2009 in Iraq by an improvised explosive device.
Thompson said the three fallen soldiers are recognized in a display at the museum, but more needed to be done to publicly honor them. Ferguson also spearheaded the effort for the new monuments.
A dedication ceremony for all the new monuments is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, with local author and retired attorney Jerry Barksdale serving as guest speaker.
County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough and Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks also will speak during the dedication.
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