Schuylkill Dedicates Monument

Schuylkill Dedicates Monument
Memorial Is Tribute To 43 From The County Who Gave Their Lives In The Vietnam War

May 11, 1997 | by CHRISTINA M. PARKER (A free-lance story for The Morning Call)

Norman L. Nesterak was "a good boy," his mother, Mary, said. "He was very active and so very full of life. He was a very good son."

Norman, an Army captain from Coaldale, was 24 years old when he died in Vietnam on September 3, 1969.

On Saturday, his mother gently placed a white rose on the new Schuylkill County Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in honor of Norman's sacrifice. Inside the memorial was an engraved 20mm shell containing a rubbing of her cherished son's name taken from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C..

Norman Nesterak was one of 43 Schuylkill County sons who gave their lives in the Vietnam war.

The young heroes "came home" on Saturday with a memorial dedication ceremony featuring Pottsville native and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. George A. Joulwan.

The memorial is on Route 61 in North Manheim Township, between the First United Church of Christ and Penn State University's Schuylkill Haven campus.

As each fallen soldier's name was called, his mother or other family member walked up to the memorial escorted by a Vietnam veteran who carried the engraved shell on a small embroidered pillow. The shell was placed in a crypt in front of the marker. The Gold Star mother then placed a white rose on the memorial.

A red rose marks the name of Air Force Col. Henry A. Tipping of Mill Creek, who remains missing in action.

Forty-three Vietnam veterans, members of the "Last Patrol," walked one mile to the memorial site carrying the engraved shells on small pillows. The families kept the pillows, embroidered with American flags.

Each veteran also bore a picture of the soldier whose name he carried.

The poignant, two-hour ceremony was highlighted by Joulwan's presentation.

A four-star general, Joulwan was named honorary chairman of the "Vietnam Valor: Salute to Sacrifice" campaign to create the memorial.

Joulwan drew upon his own Vietnam experiences as he spoke to the crowd of thousands who shivered in the cold wind.

"Today I return home not as a general in the United States Army, and not as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe. Today I am here to join you, simply and proudly, as a Vietnam veteran.

"Today, more than two decades after the end of the war, we remember, and Schuylkill County remembers, and pays homage to her soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, her GIs who paid the supreme sacrifice in service to their nation," he said.

"To each of you here who played a part in making this moment a reality, I thank you. I thank you deeply for remembering and for caring and for treating those who died in Vietnam with the great dignity and respect they deserve," Joulwan said, his voice breaking.