The Bassett Historical Center (BHC) has organized a raffle to help recoup some of the costs of recent improvements to its Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Monument. The area around the monument, which was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2018, has recently undergone a facelift both to better beautify the area and to protect it.
The stone monument is situated just outside the center, located at 3964 Fairystone Parkway, Bassett. The large stone wall is engraved on the front with the names of veterans with ties to Martinsville and Henry County who served in Vietnam during the war. Below the names is the phrase, “we recognize and thank all Vietnam era veterans for their service. All gave some – some gave all.” On the back of the monument’s center stone is four soldiers in silhouette
Next to the monument sits a stone bench, a tribute to those who served in the Korean DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) Conflict, situated so visitors can sit and gaze out over the Smith River which flows behind the museum. The monument is surrounded by rich, brown mulch, trees, and flowers, creating the perfect, peaceful place to remember or pay tribute to local veterans.
When the monument was originally dedicated, said BHC Board President Betty Turner, it was surrounded by temporary posts to help protect it from being hit by cars maneuvering in the center’s small parking lot. “The one (post) on the corner was bent several times. That really got us moving to get something done for protection.”
Betty’s husband Lewis Turner, a 28-year retired Army veteran, served as one of the project managers for the project.
“The committee and the board decided we needed to protect the integrity of the walls from vehicular damage and to beautify (the area) at the same time,” Lewis explained. Ultimately, Johnson Landscaping, based in Chatham, had the winning proposal. The work was completed last Friday.
Several of the center’s parking spaces were removed and stone pavers were laid in their place, creating a designated space around what BHC Director Fran Snead said she has begun to call Military Square. The grass surrounding the new square was turned into a mulched flower bed and, of course, black metal poles were placed around the space to protect the space from potential vehicular damage.
“He did a tremendous job,” Lewis said.
Snead estimated the project cost $25,000, some of which was covered by donations solicited via a mailing last year. Organizers hope the remainder will be covered by raffle proceeds.
Since its dedication, and even before the new hardscaping was in place, community response to the monument has been positive.
To create the monument, a committee was formed, consisting of several veterans as well as BHC board members and volunteers. It was chaired by 22-year retired Army veteran David Kipfinger, who served in both Vietnam and Korea and is currently Commander of American Legion Post 42. For 18-months, they worked to find names of people with ties to the area who served in-country during the Vietnam War. The day the monument was dedicated, more than 700 people attended the ceremony.
Betty Turner said that the center has focused much of its current memorial efforts on Vietnam veterans in particular because “most people in this area feel that Vietnam veterans were given a raw deal and they were treated very poorly when they came back home. It really wasn’t fair for them to be treated like that. We felt like this was a nice way to honor them and their families,” who, she noted, also sacrificed a great deal while their loved ones were serving overseas.
Lewis agreed with his wife, saying that, for many veterans, “when they walked off the airplane or ship and set foot back on American soil, many were spit on or ridiculed as being kid killers. This is a reflection of what the country and the people really feel in terms of supporting their efforts.”
Snead said there are 345 names on the monument, all with ties to Martinsville and Henry County. Names of 26 who were killed in action during the conflict are listed at the top.
Lewis Turner pointed out that this monument honors not just those who lost their lives, but those who were fortunate enough to return home. “The Vietnam veterans’ wall in Washington, D.C. has been extremely well-received throughout the whole world, but all of those people, unfortunately, are deceased. This monument honors not only those who were killed, but all the others who lived through it and made it home. This gives them credit for serving in the country and lets the citizens of Martinsville and Henry County show their appreciation for their service in Vietnam.”
“What it boils down to is the Vietnam wall in D.C. is honoring those who gave their life and with this (monument), the primary target is honoring those who went to Vietnam and the 26 who lost their lives,” Kipfinger said.
Betty Turner said the response to the monument thus far has been excellent. “Even with the number of people who came to the dedication, people still stop by to see it. I think it’s a really good thing we’ve done for our area.”
“People still come to see it,” Lewis Turner concurred. “That’s something that I think the Center and the committee should be very proud of, how well that (military) square has been accepted as a reminder” of those who served.
“It means a lot that people from throughout the state (and even outside of Virginia) who come to see it are very taken with it,” Kipfinger said.
And the work is not over yet.
“Our future plan is to do a Vietnam veteran bench out there,” Snead said. “If anyone served in Vietnam (she later specified in-country, not just during the Vietnam era) and would like to have their name added, we ask that they bring their DD 214 (discharge form) to the Center and fill out some contact information. Our veteran family, like Mr. Kipfinger, will look over the paperwork to make sure that they qualify.”
“The Bassett Historical Center is a facility that specializes in genealogy, family history, and local history, but any time that we can do something for the military and helping out our veterans, that’s one of the aspects (of our work) that I think we’re most proud of,” Snead said.
Snead said the center purchased $8,000 in merchandise from Rural King in Martinsville. Items include a swimming pool valued at $599, a 3-burner gas grill for $299.99, and a number of guns, including a Henry 45-70 rifle valued at $949.97. There are 1,000 raffle tickets in total. The cost of each is $20. If all of the tickets are sold, Snead said, the center would net $12,000 (after covering the cost of the prizes) “which would put us where we need to be” to cover the entire cost of the project.
“If we sell all the tickets,” Lewis interjected. The last day to purchase raffle tickets is Friday, July 29 at 2 p.m. The raffle begins Aug. 1 and ends Aug. 30, with a different prize being awarded each day of the month.
“One ticket gives you 30 chances at winning one of the items in the raffle,” Lewis said. “If you buy a book, which is 5 tickets, you have 150 chances of winning,” essentially 5 chances per day.
Winners will be determined nightly by the Virginia Lottery Pick 3 drawing. As there is a chance the same number could be selected more than once during the month, winners will not have to turn in their tickets upon claiming their prize, but rather can hold onto them in hopes of winning again.
Raffle winners will receive a certificate from the center which they will take to Rural King to claim their prize. Snead said winners are not required to claim the prize won if it is not something they want. Rather, they can select other items up to their particular prize’s value.
BHC board members and other volunteers have tickets to sell. Tickets also may be purchased by visiting or calling the center at (276) 629-9191 or calling Kipfinger at (276) 806-6186.
For more information on the raffle and other events at the Bassett Historical Center, follow Bassett Historical Center on Facebook.