By Lynn Blamires Content Writer for My Local Utah
On ground made sacred by its very presence, stands the Vietnam Memorial Wall on the north side of Layton Commons. Etched into its black granite face are the names of every soldier who gave their life for our freedom in Vietnam.
Built in 2018 in a partnership between the Utah Vietnam Veterans of America and Layton City, the wall is tapered on both ends to reflect the smaller numbers at the beginning of the conflict and when it wound down to its close. The middle section reflects the staggering losses of loved ones born by families at home.
Four memorial walls have been erected in eastern states in addition to the original one that stands in Washington D.C. Three of them are 80 percent of the size of the wall in the nation’s capital, but the Layton memorial is larger.
While all of the states honor the sacrifice of their own sons, Layton’s Vietnam Memorial wall is second only to the one in Washington and it is located further west. It more particularly serves those in the Mountain States who can’t make the trip back to the nation’s Capital. Many people come to reverence the purpose and meaning of the memorial and to honor lost loved ones.
58,317 names grace the memorial wall. Eight stone benches are spaced along the length of the wall facing it. Each bench bears the name of one of the eight women who also sacrificed their lives in Vietnam.
The wall is a part of a growing shrine to Vietnam Veterans. In March of 2021, a K9 War Dog Memorial was dedicated at this same site honoring some 4,000 K9 dogs who served faithfully at the side of their masters.
In November of that same year, a bronze Battle Cross was dedicated. The Battle Cross is a symbolic replacement of a cross or memorial marker for a soldier that has fallen. This memorial is a sign of respect for those that gave their lives in combat during wartime and dates back to World War I. It consists of the soldier’s rifle stuck in the ground, supporting his helmet with his combat boots on either side. Dog tags sometimes accompany the memorial.
During that ceremony, a monument was dedicated to those who lost lives from conditions they were exposed to during their military service in Vietnam. Exposure to Agent Orange, for example, caused many long-term medical conditions that are still deadly.
Much of what is displayed at the Layton Commons has come about because of the work of Dennis Howland. Dennis is a United States Marine who served for eight years. Two of those years were in Vietnam where he was a Door Gunner on Huey and UH34 helicopters. Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Mr. Howland was witness to the way Vietnam Veterans were treated upon their return home when the war ended.
Determined to restore the honor and recognition those vets should have received, Mr. Howland has worked hard to help Vietnam Veterans. As President of the Utah State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, his work has been instrumental in the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the K9 War Dog Memorial, the Bronze Battle Cross Memorial, the monument dedicated to those soldiers who lost their lives after the war, and the designation of I-84 as the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Highway from the Wyoming border to the Idaho border. It already has that designation to its end in Oregon.
A new feature is planned to complete the Layton Commons memorial. It will be known as Freedom’s Memorial Plaza. It was designed by JoEllen Grandy and will include a plaza whose center will be a reflection pond surrounded by 13 pillars representing the original 13 colonies. Six benches will face the pond in front of the pillars.
Fundraising for this plaza will be kicked off with a Tribute to the Bob Hope on July 9, 2022, at the Ed Kenley Amphitheater.