Vietnam memorial: from Cardinal Dougherty to VFW

Vietnam memorial: from Cardinal Dougherty to VFW

Members of Warriors’ Watch Riders stand at attention during a ceremony in front of Cardinal Dougherty High School. The school’s Vietnam memorial was moved to the nearby VFW.
…It took a work crew 45 minutes Tuesday to remove the two-foot-high marble Vietnam Veterans Memorial from the grounds of Cardinal Dougherty High School in Northeast Philadelphia.

The memorial, which honors the 27 Dougherty graduates who died while serving in Vietnam, was then escorted 2.5 miles away by 16 men on motorcycles from the Warriors’ Watch Riders to the grounds of VFW Post 2819 on Martins Mill Road. After Dougherty closed this year because of dwindling enrollment, the memorial needed a new home and new caretakers.
It seemed logical that the VFW Post 2819 in Northeast Philadelphia would take that role since its membership included more Dougherty graduates than any other post in the city.

“We can’t minimize the price these 27 men have made,” said Bill Eves, 62, a 1966 Dougherty graduate and Vietnam veteran, who chaired the committee to finalize the agreement with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to remove the memorial.

“Once I heard [the school] was going to close, we wanted to make sure the memorial was preserved,” said Charles Becker, 67, a Vietnam vet and ’60 Dougherty graduate.

Becker said he was not present when the memorial was created in the mid-1970s but was there in 1989 when it was rededicated.

“It’s time to take our brothers home with us to the VFW,” Becker said at the half-hour ceremony at Dougherty before the stone memorial was moved. In addition to the 27 Dougherty graduates killed in Vietnam, three others who attended the school but did not receive a diploma also were killed in the line of duty. It took seven minutes for the memorial to make it from the high school to the VFW post.

A spot for the memorial had been dug prior to the ceremony and cement had been put in place several feet from another memorial for Frank King, a Philadelphia police officer killed in 1998. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial will not be formally dedicated until Veterans Day.

Richard Caputo, 65, a founding member of Veterans of America Chapter 590 based in Fort Washington, said he knew most of the men whose names were inscribed in the memorial.

“Vietnam was part of our history. Why forget them?” said Caputo, who was in the Army in Vietnam from ’66 to ’67 and graduated from Dougherty in 1963.

“We did what we had to do. We did what we were told to do.”

He said that even though many Vietnam veterans would be honored only by having their name on a wall or memorial, it “should still bring a tear to people’s eyes because it’s about remembering who served and gave their life for this country, right or wrong.”

Msgr. James J. Howard, who was the principal at Dougherty during the time when most of the 27 fallen soldiers attended, spoke at the ceremony just before taps was played.

“Cardinal Dougherty may be closing, but this is no closing,” he said, “This is simply a transfer to continue their spirit.”

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