Wichita City Council members are no strangers to tough choices. But it's rare that they hear anything like the 90 minutes of heart-wrenching public comment at Tuesday's meeting over a proposal to place a Vietnamese community memorial in Wichita's Veterans Memorial Park. Any decision they make risks offense.
The memorial would incorporate a life-size bronze sculpture of an American soldier and a South Vietnamese soldier together, as well as a traditional Vietnamese incense burner, a plaque and flags. Both the memorial itself and its maintenance would be privately funded.
"As a community we donate this memorial, because we express our appreciation to all the soldiers who died," said Kenny Nguyen, pastor of Vietnamese Metropolitan Baptist Church.
It all comes down to the original purpose of the park – still a point of contention – and whether a memorial to both U.S. and South Vietnamese veterans of the Vietnam War would serve that purpose.
"I ask the City Council to vote to keep it an American veterans park," said Terry D. Houck of Derby, a Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
The issue is complicated by the facts that the park already has a memorial honoring Vietnam War veterans and already incorporates other countries' flags and culture, including Korean text and design in its Korean War Memorial. City Council members also must consider the limited space in the park for additional memorials.
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