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September/october 2008

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On June 20, 92-year-old Ross Grego visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Accompanied by his neighbor, Cheryl Parkinson, and Silver Spring, Maryland, Chapter 641 members Mike Najarian and Dave Gudes, he went to see his son’s name. A volunteer made rubbings for Grego, and he spent some quiet moments in front of The Wall. This was the first time in his life that he had wandered outside Council Bluffs, Iowa.

It was not the first time he had seen his son’s name memorialized, however. Grego was responsible for the creation of the Veterans Park in Council Bluffs, which was built around a Vietnam Veterans Memorial he had created—whose centerpiece is a bronze statue of his son.

The memorial was a labor of love for Grego and his friend, Verlow King, whose son had returned safely from Vietnam. Between the two of them, they raised $80,000 to cover the memorial’s costs. On the granite memorial are carved the names of the 39 servicemen from Pottawattamie County who died in Vietnam. On top of the granite slab, Grego commissioned John Lajba to create a bronze statue depicting a single soldier, a soldier with a striking resemblance to Grego’s son, Phillip.

“I think it’s my boy up there,” Grego said.

King died before the 1988 dedication, and Grego’s wife died last year. But Ross Grego still daily tends the memorial in Council Bluffs where his son and the other fallen of Vietnam are memorialized.

Over the years, the site has been expanded to include memorials to veterans of other conflicts and there has been extensive landscaping. In 2003, Veterans Plaza at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs was rededicated.

But the vision—the guiding light of this memorial—has remained this simple, unassuming man, an associate member of VVA Council Bluffs Chapter 798 universally known as “Pop.”

“The boys fought for something,” Grego explained, and the community should give them something back.

 

 

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