Vietnam veterans honored across Southern California on 50th anniversary of war

As Wednesday marked a half-century of the Vietnam War, communities across Southern California honored the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

FOX 11's Hailey Winslow was in downtown Los Angeles as the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (MVA) and the Los Angeles Veteran Collaborative (LAVC) co-hosted a formal dinner to honor the veterans.

Meanwhile, in Orange County's Yorba Linda, a monument memorializing all members of the U.S armed forces in the Vietnam War was dedicated Wednesday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 500-pound bronze monument with traditional patina depicts a Marine running through the jungles of Vietnam in 1971-72, when Nixon was president. The Marine is carrying an M16 A1 rifle with a birdcage tip and wearing a two-layered helmet with bug juice, a rolled-up long-sleeve shirt, bandoleer with ammunition pouches, trousers, mud-covered jungle boots and has a towel around his neck.

The monument also depicts three canteens, a backpack, flack jacket, hand grenades with holders, over-the-shoulder gun belt and pockets full of other supplies.

A Marine was chosen to be depicted because of the library's proximity to Camp Pendleton and the prevalence of the Marine community in Southern California, said Joe Lopez, the Nixon Foundation's vice president of marketing and communications.

The research and creative process for designing the Vietnam Veterans Monument started in August when the Nixon Foundation formed a committee of Vietnam veterans, a Gold Star family member from the war, Ron Pekar, the monument's artist, and members of the Nixon Foundation senior staff, according to Lopez.

Committee members visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia and the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot Museum in San Diego for research and design, Lopez said.

Pekar also made the Traveler statue at USC and "The Handoff" sculpture at the Rose Bowl.

More than 150 Vietnam veterans attended the 11 a.m. ceremony and were greeted by Robert Wilkie, the secretary of Veterans Affairs from 2018-21, and received the national official Vietnam veteran lapel pin, Lopez said.

The ceremony coincided with National Vietnam War Veterans Day and came on the 50th anniversary of the day the last U.S. combat troops departed Vietnam.