Captain Norman W. "Rusty" Heck of nearby Ida, Michigan, was killed in Vietnam on 8 December, 1964...long before Americans were "officially" engaged in armed conflict there. At that time, the France Stone Company of Toledo, Ohio owned the land upon which the park stands today, and to honor the memory and sacrifice of Captain Heck, donated it jointly to the city and county of Monroe on 13 April, 1966, with the stipulation that it be named after him. The black granite monument that stands to the extreme left, the very first addition to the park, is also named after him, and in June of 1967, "CAPTAIN NORMAN W. HECK, JR., MEMORIAL PARK" was officially dedicated.
Chapter 142, Vietnam Veterans of America was chartered on 20 March, 1984. In
1985, the chapter decided to build a memorial honoring ALL Monroe County
soldiers who served their country during the Vietnam War, and began an ambitious
campaign to finance the project through public, private and corporate donations.
The citizens of Monroe County opened their hearts and pocketbooks, and on 17
"THE MONROE COUNTY VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL" was dedicated. The strawberry granite monument is in the shape of an "M" (for Monroe, see picture below) and lists the names of most of the Monroe County soldiers who left their homes and families to answer the call of duty to their country...and survived that terrible war!
In front of it stands a black granite monument dedicated to the 55 who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom by giving their lives in Vietnam. The 56th name on that monument is that of Staff Sergeant Melvin C. Dye, of nearby Carleton, Michigan, who has the distinction of being the only Monroe County soldier still listed as "Missing-In-Action" from the Vietnam War. An unending chapter 142 cry to our government is for an official accounting of the fate of Sergeant Dye and all other M-I-A's!
In 1988, the chapter decided that something was needed to "lure" people to the park. They petitioned the United States Government for donation of a decommissioned helicopter from the Vietnam War. On 18 May, 1991, the UH-1M "Huey" helicopter gunship Number 632 flew "The Final Mission" (with the help of a crane) onto it's pedestal for permanent static display.
In May of 1992,
the "Walk of Freedom" sidewalk was constructed, featuring the names of
the 77 soldiers who were listed as "Missing-In-Action" during the Vietnam War
from the State of Michigan. Bricks with individual stars denote that remains
have since been returned. The
"Walk of Freedom" turns and circles the Huey helicopter, and features individual bricks which can be purchased by the public to honor/remember a loved one or business. Applications are located in the newspaper box at the park.
A second helicopter became available to the Chapter, and on 30 April, 1994, a "Cobra" helicopter gunship was dedicated. This "bird" is simply an offensive weapon. One man flies it, while another man fires it!
If you look past the flagpole to your left, (see picture below) you will see a landscaped hill. Out of that hill protrudes a utility pole, and atop that pole (at approximately 10 o'clock high), flies the latest addition to Heck Park, the "Chained Eagle", dedicated on POW/MIA Day, 20 September, 1996. The 250 pound, wooden, chainsaw carved eagle is symbolic to the logo of the National Prisoner-of-War(POW) movement. The eagle, representing the United States and freedom, is restricted by the chain, representing their plight of incarceration. Another unending cry from chapter 142 is for release and/or accounting of any and all American soldiers who may still be being held against their will!
Chapter 142 would like to offer "Special Thanks" to the City, County and Township of Monroe for their tremendous cooperation in this "marriage" of our associations. Also, to the Monroe County citizens who have supported our ongoing efforts so generously. We thank all who have assisted in any way in making Heck Park the "Sacred Ground" that we revere it as today.
We ask that you treat the park with the respect and reverence it deserves. We have receptacles for trash throughout the park for your convenience. The Chapter 142 newspapers and information in the box are free for your taking. We also ask that you sign our guestbook, located alongside the entrance, with your address and comments, and we would be happy to send you a special Heck Park memorial photograph postcard as a reminder and memento of your visit...and please, come back soon!
MONROE COUNTY CHAPTER 142
P.O. BOX 1407
MONROE, MICHIGAN 48161
*NOTE: V V A Chapter 142 meets at 9:30 A.M. on the first Saturday of every month at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 1138,
located at 128 East Front Street in Downtown Monroe.
Membership is open to Vietnam and Vietnam Era veterans, and the general public as Associates.
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