Southern Utah News Articles
Utah Vietnam Veterans honored for service
Serving in the Marine Corp M Company, Third Battalion, 7th Marine regiment in Vietnam in 1968-1969, Kanab resident O.C. Dale quickly learned of the emotional and physical trauma war can wreak on a person.
“I got shot, a gut round, which took off the top of my hip bone and lodged near my spine,” explained Dale. “They did exploratory surgery, and decided to leave the bullet in. It eventually worked its way out, and I was able to return.”
Dale subsequently received an early discharge for education. He said he didn’t experience war protestors upon his return to the states. “I flew into the Marine Corp base in El Toro, California. I didn’t see the negative. But I was grateful for the protestors saying ‘bring them home.’ Most of us wanted to come home too!”
But school wasn’t what the California native sought when he returned home – it was healing, peace and nature. “In 1969, I asked river company owner Ron Smith for a job on the Colorado River. I’ve been on the river ever since. It has been a good life – I’m in my 45th year.”
Dale met Clyde Morgan on the river, and the two men developed a friendship that has lasted for decades. “We found out on the river trip that we had both served in the Marine Corps, although Clyde had been there earlier. We hit it off, and talked about our experiences.”
Morgan, a retired sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps, in Dunang, Vietnam, was also a sculptor who thought Dale would make a good model for a bronze war commemorative.
“In the early 80s, I wrote the Marine Corps and asked if I could get a helmet and flak jacket from the Vietnam era for the sculpture,” explained Dale. He added that the McDonald family of Kanab, loaned the M16s to complete the authentic uniform for the sculpture.
The Utah Veteran’s Association decided in the early 1980s to honor Vietnam Veterans with a bronze memorial to be built on the Capitol grounds. No taxpayer monies were spent to honor these war heroes. There was a contest for sculptors to create a memorial that would best depict the challenging and often heart-breaking journey the soldiers had faced. Morgan’s sculpture of Dale was selected.
Dale said Morgan’s sculpture was unique, in that it captured the soldier returning from a night patrol and firefight. His nerves, like his ammunition, are spent. The soldier stands in a rice paddy, one rifle carried in his right arm, helmet hanging from his left hand, and another rifle slung across his back.
The sculptor captures the dramatic, in that the soldier’s face and body carry the burden of an extra rifle that belongs to a fallen buddy; a burden that is insignificant compared to the extra baggage or unexpressed feelings that he will most likely carry for life.
The remarkable memorial was dedicated in 1989 to a crowd of nearly 5000. The event was covered by the Southern Utah News. Utah’s recent proclamation of March 29 as a day reserved to honor Vietnam Veterans brought the memorial once again into focus.
Dale comments he is proud to have been a part of his friend sculptor Clyde Morgan’s nine foot tall memorial for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial displayed on the west grounds of the Capitol.
“It’s a healing place for a lot of people,” said Dale of the memorial. “Sometimes the helmet will be filled with flowers. Someone once put their deceased son’s dog tags around the neck of the statue. I feel honored to have been a part of that.”