City honors 35 lost in Vietnam
The Vietnam War officially ended in 1975, and today represents a tumultuous period of American history. The politics and social upheaval resulted in an era we now reflect on with anger, shame, regret or simple bafflement.
But unlike the conflicted feelings of the time, in which soldiers were drafted and sent overseas to fight a war often against their will, only to return to wholesale spite for their actions while there, today Americans largely honor their service.
And that’s why, after almost 45 years, the 35 Bethlehem men who lost their lives in Vietnam will be celebrated with a permanent memorial, which will be officially dedicated June 1.
Beth Masiado, whose brother served in Vietnam, runs Stars for Our Heroes, a local group that retires old U.S. flags and shares the stars with current troops. Her brother attended Liberty HS with some of the 35 fallen soldiers, and she decided upon her retirement in September that she would visit each of their graves.
“I just didn’t want them to be alone and forgotten,” Masiado said.
“I did some research and found all but one, since he is buried in Colorado. The journey took me to 11 cemeteries. I left a penny at each one to show I visited, along with a heart-shaped rock and a star from our American flag. I knelt down and recited the 23rd Psalm to each one of them, but I realized I was there all alone and no one else knew that an American hero was buried there.
“I felt like they were forgotten and I wanted to do more.”
Masiado approached Mayor Bob Donchez with her research, and realizing he recognized some of the soldiers, he agreed a memorial was in order. Barely waiting to take a breath, Masiado had commissioned such from Monumental Crafts in Hellertown and begun internet and word-of-mouth fundraising. In months, individual community donations had reached the estimated $10,000 cost.
Already installed at city hall’s Payrow Plaza, the memorial will serve as a reminder of a time and conflict that Bethlehem did not escape without service and sacrifice.
“These young men not only belonged to their families,” Masiado said, “but to our city and each one of us. They were our neighbors, our friends, classmates and teammates.
“They went when their country called and made the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. “We owe it to them and their families to honor and remember them.”