LAYTON — The Utah Legislature appears to be less than enthusiastic about funding a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but the group lobbying to bring the structure to Layton says it will be built whether the state helps or not.
In early February, Dennis Howland, state president of Utah Vietnam Veterans of America, and Layton Mayor Bob Stevenson spoke to the Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee, asking the state to contribute $212,640 to help build a 360-foot-long stone replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.
The wall would be built at Layton Commons Park, 437 N. Wasatch Drive, on a chunk of land Layton city has already donated for the project. Howland said the wall will be about 80 percent of the size of the original wall in Washington, D.C., and will have the names of all 58,000-plus Americans who died fighting in Vietnam etched into it.
Howland said the entire cost of the wall and installation will likely exceed $300,000. The Utah VVA has already raised about $50,000, but Howland said the state’s assistance would accelerate fundraising efforts that have been going on for more than a year.
“We’ve had some larger donations from veterans groups,” Howland said. “But most of the money we’ve raised has come from very small, singular donations. So obviously, getting our Legislature on board would be huge.”
But ever since Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, facilitated Howland’s meeting with the appropriations committee on Feb. 5, the request hasn’t moved forward.
“It’s receiving lukewarm reception at best,” Howland said. “It hasn’t really moved, and I got a text from (Oda) that said we may need to look at a different approach.”
Oda said the deal isn’t dead, but he told Howland that as the end of the session nears, he might want to rally supporters and reach out to members of the Legislature. Howland said he has reached out across his large network of Utah veterans, asking them to contact their lawmakers and urge support.
“Our next move is to get people on the phone or go to the capitol and try to tell our lawmakers why we need this,” he said.
Stevenson told the appropriations committee he believed the wall will become an “economic driver” for Layton and Utah because it’s likely to bring tourist dollars to the area. Aside from donating the land, Layton also pledged to help with construction and will donate some other infrastructure.
The mayor said the city will look at funding mechanisms for the wall as administrators work through their next budget.
Howland said some have suggested he solicit money from Vietnam veterans themselves, since the wall honors them. The VVA president said that would be like “inviting them out to dinner, then asking them to pick up the check.” He emphasized that eventually the wall will be built, regardless of funding challenges.
“There is no Plan B,” he said. “If we have to hold 1,000 potluck dinners, we will. We are going to build this wall.”