By David Fleet
Melvin L. McArthur was just 21-years-old when he was killed in action near Quang Ngal on a return trip from a mission to his command post at Chu Lai, north of Saigon, the then capital city of South Vietnam.
McArthur, formerly of Ortonville, is just one of 58,489 names on Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and among 2,654 soldiers from Michigan.
A tribute to those soldiers from Michigan will arrive in Ortonville and Goodrich this summer. The Michigan Vietnam Veteran Traveling Memorial will be at Ortonville Days June 23-25 and during Good Times in Goodrich Aug. 5-6.
For more than a decade the Michigan Vietnam Veteran Traveling Memorial has been on display summer weekends each year.
“We’ve taken the memorial all over the state,” said Dave Schoenherr, 70, a U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam from 1966-68 and who has traveled with the memorial for the past six years.
“People are often very taken back when they see the memorial for the first time. Many say they had no idea there were that many from Michigan that gave their lives.”
In 2005 Staff Sgt Kurt Damrow, of the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard, created the memorial in memory of Navy GMG3 Oliver Damrow of Kinde, Mich. Damrow was killed in action during his second tour of duty in Vietnam.
The names are etched on five-eight foot panels spanning about 25 feet. Unique to the display are several notebooks that include pictures and other information about the soldier.
“We want to put a face to the names,” said Schoenherr. “There’s a story, too, behind all those names and we’ve provided a means to remember each one those them.”
There about about 300 individuals on the memorial for which photos are still being sought, he added.