Veterans Memorial Plaza is designated as a central city location for the placement of military oriented memorials, plaques and statues. Additionally, this place of reverence is intended to be “hallowed ground” for military ceremonies and wreath laying vigils. Veterans Memorial Plaza is dedicated to the memory and sacrifices of those who served in our nation’s armed forces. Their willingness to meet and overcome the most difficult of tests will never be forgotten.
September 1985: Vietnam veterans – John D. Baines (former Navy Seabee) and Major William “Bill” C. Stensland, USMC (Ret.) received unanimous approval from the San Antonio City Council to proceed with plans to develop Veterans Memorial Plaza and to commission Scottsdale, Arizona artist, Austin Deuel, to create “Hill-881 South” – San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
December 1985: John D. Baines and Maj. Bill C. Stensland founded and chartered The Vietnam Veterans Memorial of San Antonio, Inc., a non-profit corporation chartered in the state of Texas. They assembled nine veterans, representing all five branches of the military, to serve on the Board of Directors. This entity was established to raise funds to design and oversee the construction of Veterans Memorial Plaza and a Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
January 1986: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial of San Antonio, Inc. commissioned Austin Deuel, to create “Hill-881 South”, San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The three times life-size bronze sculpture is believed to be the largest sculpture of its type in the United States.
Total Cost: $200,000.00.
February 1986: The City of San Antonio and Vietnam Veterans Memorial of San Antonio, Inc. entered into a legally binding contract for the design and construction of Veterans Memorial Plaza. The new urban park would be developed on what was a city-owned downtown parking lot. Veterans Memorial Plaza would be funded through charitable donations from the general public. All fund raising efforts would be organized by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of San Antonio, Inc. organization.
June 1986: Bob Hope performed a USO show at the Municipal Auditorium to raise funds for the development of Veterans Memorial Plaza.
November 9th 1986: A crowd estimated at 10,000 veterans, family members, active-duty military personnel and citizens, from as far away as New York and California, attended the dedication ceremony. General William C. Westmoreland, commanding general of all forces in Vietnam (1964-1968), was the keynote speaker. John D. Baines, U.S. Congressman Tom G. Loeffler and San Antonio Mayor Henry G. Cisneros also spoke. Reverend Buckner Fanning, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, gave the invocation. Prior to the dedication ceremony, an ecumenical service was held at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, located directly across Martin Street from the plaza.
April 30th 1987: A ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the battle for Hill-881 South, the battle depicted in San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was held at Veterans Memorial Plaza. A number of the Marines and Navy Corpsmen that participated in the battle were in attendance.
July 28th 1988: General Alfred M. Gray (29th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps) was the keynote speaker at a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Plaza. Sergeant Major David W. Sommers (11th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps) accompanied General Gray. The Commandant and his staff made a special trip to San Antonio to visit our Vietnam Veterans Memorial, because it depicts the battle for Hill-881 South, a Marine Corps engagement.
September 2nd 1988: John D. Baines, Maj. Bill C. Stensland and Austin Deuel were invited to attend a reception at The Commandant’s House, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. They were recognized for their efforts to create “Hill-881 South”, San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
November 30th 1988: After almost three years, and over 85 fund raising events, the $650,000.00 cost of Veterans Memorial Plaza and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was paid-in-full.
April 30th 2007: A ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the battle for Hill-881 South was held at Veterans Memorial Plaza. A large contingent of Marines that participated in the battle, their families and friends attended.
May 10th 2014: The United States Naval Academy – Class of 1962 – held a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor their classmates that died in the line of duty. The speakers were Capt. Don Allee, USN (Ret.); Lt. Col. Ray Madonna, USMC (Ret.); and John D. Baines.
November 01st 2016: The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce sponsored a ceremony to kick-off their annual “Celebrate America’s Military” festivities and to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The speakers included: San Antonio Mayor Ivy. R. Taylor; former San Antonio Mayor Henry G. Cisneros; and, John D. Baines, Founder & Chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of San Antonio, Inc. Retired Navy Chaplin Paul Worley gave the invocation.
April 30th 1967: 1st Lt. David Rogers, USMC wrote the following poem the night before the battle for Hill-881 South:
“Death at my Door”
Day is over and danger hastens
Young Marines at their battle stations
Instruments of war outline the sky
Means of death are standing by
Can it be true on this high hill
Forces will clash only to kill?
Silence fills the near moonless night
Restless thoughts of a bloody fight
Endless memories for those awake
Meaningful discussions experience would make
Though silent world in which we live
Permit only God’s comfort to give.
Somewhere through the darkness creeping
A date with death is in the keeping
Alone I sit and question why
Life itself to be born to merely die?
Lieutenant Rogers’ poem is inscribed on the base of San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Veterans Memorial Plaza and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial were made possible by private contributions from more than 130,000 Americans. Nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar bills funded this tribute. The average contribution was $5.00. This was a classic grassroots fundraising effort. The “man on the street” can shoulder full credit for this inspiring tribute to the memory and sacrifices of our veterans.
Since the November 9th 1986 dedication, there have been numerous Memorial Day, 4th of July, Veterans Day, Marine Corps Birthday, and Armed Forces Week ceremonies held at the plaza. Additionally, somber wreath laying vigils have been held by various military organizations, military academy class reunions and convention groups.
San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial – “Hill-881 South” – has been featured in numerous military oriented magazines and hard-cover books. A few examples: Texas Highways magazine, Marines magazine, Leatherneck magazine, Military Times magazine, Navy Times, Stars & Stripes, Soldier of Fortune magazine, Retired Officer’s Magazine, “Warriors Remembered” by: COL. Albert J. Nahas, USA (Ret.), “The Art of War” by: Col. H. Avery Chenoweth,USMC (Ret.), “The Hill Fights – The First Battle of Khe Sanh” by: Edward E. Murphy, “Even God is Against Us” by: Austin Deuel, “The Mighty Have Fallen” by: Larry Bond, and “American Battlefields & Memorials”.
We truly hope that you enjoy your visit to Veterans Memorial Plaza…