Veterans pay tribute to comrades by cleaning Volunteers help maintain Vietnam War Memorial


The names of the 1,046 Maryland men and women lost in the Vietnam War showed a little more clearly yesterday on the memorial dedicated to them, as a volunteer cleaning crew of about 10 veterans took to the site with power hoses and work gloves.

The volunteers, members of Baltimore Chapter 451 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said they were helping because of cuts in maintenance staff for the memorial, which sits at the southern end of the former Hanover Street bridge, renamed for the memorial five years ago.

"When we came out here on Memorial Day, the grass and all was beautiful, but people couldn't even sit on the benches because of all the droppings," said Fred Bromwell of Dundalk, president of the chapter.

"The sea gulls love to sit out here," he said, gesturing toward the Patapsco River.

Robin Kelley, the Maryland Veterans Commission's program manager for the state's war memorials, said the volunteers were filling in gaps caused by budget cuts. In recent years, Kelley's responsibilities have increased, from managing the upkeep of memorials to also overseeing maintenance of five military cemeteries.

"It's difficult for me to be every place at once," said Kelley, who is also a member of the veterans' chapter.

He said conditions should improve shortly. Kelley will be able to hire two full-time staffers to take care of the memorials later this summer, in addition to a part-time groundskeeper who started recently.

The volunteers said they will return periodically to clean the memorial and remove debris. They will leave, or take to the chapter's memorial library, tokens left at the memorial by visitors.

As they worked yesterday, the veterans occasionally touched the names of childhood friends and schoolmates who died in the war.

"This represents men and women who gave their lives for their country," said veteran Gleason Harris of Dundalk. "It's a sin to let it go like this."

Pub Date: 6/08/98

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