SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – More than 58,000 names line the walls at a local Vietnam war memorial.
A local couple says thousands more are not being honored and it’s their mission to change that.
As the war came to end, servicemen and women returned home, but that wasn’t the case for their canine counterparts.
Jim and Linda Crismer are focusing on the largest Vietnam War Memorial outside of Washington D.C., which happens to be right here in Layton, Utah.
The names of 58,317 servicemen and women decorate the walls.
It’s a place members of the community come to salute those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“That’s my era, and there’s people on there, I believe there’s seven or eight people on there from the town that I’m from,” said Jim Crismer.
Two of them, Gary W. Hannah and Thomas W. Moore went to high school with Jim.
That’s why he and his wife come here often, to let their fallen friends know they are still thinking about them.
“They were killed the first day of the Tet Offensive, they are about that far apart on the panel. So, the hair still stands up on my neck when I go look at them. It’s just really touching, and to think that’s it’s here is just amazing to me,” said Jim.
As amazing as this memorial is to the Crismer’s, they also believe there’s a void.
“In Vietnam, when the United States pulled out they left 4,000 military dogs. The dogs were either euthanized or left with the Vietnamese and the handlers were brokenhearted to leave their dogs behind,” said Linda Crismer.
The Crismers, who have had two former war dogs join their family, are now on a military mission of their own to add a tribute to those fury heroes who gave their all in the service of our country.
A statue in the likeness of their dog, Mazzie is in the works.
It will sit to the side of the memorial, watching over their human colleagues on the wall.
Just like they did decades ago in a foreign land.
“Just the thought that our dog will be, a replica of our dog will be here forever is just, touches your heart,” Linda said.
Local sculptor, Lena Toritch with Young Fine Art Studio has been recruited for the project.
She specializes in memorial statues and says every last detail is personal to her.
“I feel that it’s my calling to create those monuments because I have THE utmost respect for our military and police officers,” said Toritch.
But, to make it happen the Crismers have a lot of money to raise.
“We are out there trying to get money. We are approaching businesses and other organizations like the VFW, American Legion, people like that, also the counties and cities,” Jim said.
They say they won’t stop until the job is done.
Because they see it as a small price to pay for those whose watchful eye kept countless service members from paying the highest price.
“It’s been said that there would probably be another 10,000 names on this wall if it hadn’t been for those 4,000 dogs that were in Vietnam,” Jim added.
The project is about $50,000 short. If you’d like to help you can.
Just go to any Wells Fargo location and make a donation to the War Dogs Fund.
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