is real special for me," Cecil Davis said with pride as he explained
the construction details of the Permian Basin Vietnam Veterans'
Memorial. The Job Superintendent for Campbell Construction Company,
the general contractors, Davis is himself a Vietnam veteran.
"I feel honored to get to build this. Everything else I've ever
done has just been a job but there's something special about
His feelings were glowing in his
eyes and showing in his gestures as he explained the scope of
the project...much larger on the ground than it had ever seemed
in any of the renderings or drawings. A wall which would rise
more than ten feet above the ground was just half of that on
the hot afternoon in October, 90 days into the project and with
just over 30 days left to complete. In the center of the wall
is a place for a large outline of Texas with each of the Permian
Basin counties detailed. Below that is a sloping area which
will have names of those from that area who were listed as killed
or missing from Vietnam service.
Davis volunteered for the Marines,
leaving for induction in Abilene the day after he graduated
from Midland High School in June, 1969. By Christmas of that
year, he was in Vietnam serving as part of the security provided
by the First Marines for the huge Air Base there. A year later
he was back in the states, discharged as a Lance Corporal in
1971 and still not old enough to buy a beer.
"From the time I was in the 10th grade, I knew
I was going in the service. It was just something I was supposed
to do. My brother was in the Navy, several of my friends were
already in the service," Davis recalled. "I just knew this was
something I would do."
"I remember while I was in high school
we stopped eating supper to watch the news on television, seeing
the latest from Vietnam. I thought I would see my friends on the
news. I didn't think about the politics or that some thought the
war was unpopular. I guess it's true of young people. I never
thought of the danger or the politics."
When it was over, Davis came back
home to the construction industry. His MOS (Military Occupational
Specialty) was as a Heavy Equipment Operator. The afternoon he
was interviewed, he had been operating a front-end loader. One
of his workers joked, "We're trying to keep him busy on the tractor
to keep him out of our way."
Davis walked around the monument,
explaining the five-sided pentagon which will hold plaques of
the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. He pointed
out how hidden spotlights would illuminate four flags (United
States, Texas, and two POW/MIA) 24 hours each day and how a strip
of black blocks would match the black granite that would outline
the pentagon. Tan and red granite would pave the walkways or provide
background for the bronze plaques. One area was reserved for memorial
bricks which have helped finance the memorial which is located
at Midland International Airport just west of the Reserve Center
and less than a quarter-mile from the Confederate Air Force headquarters.
The memorial for many provides a finality to the last huge
conflict for American military forces. "Some of the vets have
come out while we have been working on the project," Davis said.
"But we have learned that many more come out at night or on weekends."
Davis said his Vietnam service didn't disturb him. "I served,
came home, and got on with my life." But he got very serious when
he declared, "We didn't lose in Vietnam. We did what we were told
to do and we did it well. What we really did was get in the middle
of a civil war."
Like most construction projects, it
looked like there was no way it would be completed on time. But
Davis was resolute in his declaration, "It will be ready on time!"
And, almost hesitantly, Davis confides that he has been asked
to answer for some of the fallen or missing troops during a roll
call at the memorial's dedication. "I don't know them, but I am
honored to answer for them."