Vietnam veterans Harvey Aiau, Raphael Cruz, Charles Drayton Henricks, Victor Lopez, Thomas Mericantante and Joseph Michael Tworek represent all branches of the armed services. Each exhibited bravery and sacrifice. Several received medals of honor.
All left for the war from Solana Beach, where they had either grown up or moved to later in life.
The Solana Beach Vietnam Veteran's Memorial honoring these six fallen soldiers was recently installed alongside the World War II memorial at the northeast corner of Plaza and Highway 101. More than 100 people, including family and friends of the deceased, attended the dedication of the memorial on March 25.
"I am very appreciative to the city of Solana Beach for doing this," said Art Lopez, who grew up in Solana Beach with Victor "Chief" Lopez and their six brothers. "It was negative for so many years. It's very satisfying to see he now he gets respect."
Short biographies of the six Vietnam and eight World War II veterans were read. Solana Beach historian Richard Moore meticulously complied during years of research.
Vietnam veteran Jack Frazier shared his experience coming home from the war and how important memorials are in the healing process.
"Even though there was a draft, most were volunteer patriots when, in America, it was a dirty word," Frazier said. "It's well past time we recognize those who served in Vietnam."
Robin Tworek Hungerford's first husband, Michael Tworek, received 33 Air Medals, the Bronze and Silver Star medals, and the Distinguished Flying Cross as a talented helicopter pilot. He died in a training accident, leaving her to raise their two small children. Hungerford attended the ceremony with her daughter, Heather.
"They've done a phenomenal job," Hungerford said. "It's a beautiful place to reflect."
The ceremony was hosted by the city, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5431 and the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society. The World War II memorial, which was relocated from the Plaza center divider to the more accessible and visible corner during the redesign of the street last year, was also rededicated.
Now, everyday as people pass on foot, bike or in their cars, they will be reminded freedom is not free, and honor the men and sacrifices they made on our behalf, Mayor Mike Nichols said.
"This location here could not have been better," said Roy Warden, a veteran and longtime Solana Beach resident. "I like to call this the Solana Beach Veteran's Corner."