Vietnam War memorial wall is moving forward again


By Cory Smith • Last Updated 9:57 pm on Friday, December 18, 2015

Vietnam War veteran Denny Craycraft overlooks the construction site of the Vietnam War memorial Friday afternoon in Belding. — Daily News/Cory Smith

BELDING — When Vietnam War veteran Denny Craycraft gets a green light, he doesn’t hesitate to race forward.

After several months of completing the process of submitting proper paperwork and working with the city of Belding to move forward with his project to build a Vietnam War memorial on city property, it appears all confusion has finally been laid to rest.

On Nov. 24, City Manager Bruce Brown sent an email to the Belding Veterans Park Committee, which Craycraft heads, informing the members that all necessary engineering drawings, permits, and other required items had been submitted and approved, allowing for Craycraft to begin constructing the monument.

Construction has begun on the new Vietnam War memorial at Belding Veterans Park. The monument will eventually feature the name of every Michigan resident who was killed in that war. — Daily News/Cory Smith

According to Brown, engineers with Fleis and Vandenbrink of Grand Rapids approved the plans with minor alterations.

“They applied a series of computations and concluded that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial could proceed  with a few minor design changes,” he said. “We are prepared to allow Denny to proceed with the project unencumbered so long as he incorporates the design changes required by our engineer.”

With winter cresting forward, Craycraft was going to wait until spring before beginning any construction. Then, a stretch of unseasonable warm weather arrived, with temperatures hitting 60 degrees, allowing for construction to begin immediately.

“There’s not going to be any turning back now,” Craycraft said. “I was going to wait until spring, but I think somebody upstairs was looking out for me, giving me a little good weather.”

Craycraft met with his excavator, Denny Hall, of Hall Trucking & Excavating in Belding, who provided services with no cost for labor, as well as High Grade Material of Grand Rapids, which provided concrete, and Elenbass Steel in Greenville, which provided reinforced steel bars (rebar).

The foundation has since been dug, cement has been poured, and rising up into the air, stand the initial rerod bars.

“Things are coming together on this thing,” said Craycraft on Friday at the site of the monument’s construction. “In the last three to four months, through all of this turmoil, I literally have thousands of people telling me they want this done and to see it.”

The cement foundation and steel reinforcement bars for the Vietnam War memorial in Belding have been constructed, thanks to a stretch of unseasonably warm December weather. — Daily News/Cory Smith

On Sept. 14, Craycraft dug the foundation for the monument, only to have a stop work order placed on the site by the city of Belding. Craycraft had not submitted proper engineering drawings to the city, nor submitted his plans to the city’s planning commission, forcing Brown to give the stop work order.

After two months of working with the city and the planning commission, the city was still without any engineering drawings after the conclusion of multiple heated meetings, and Brown ordered for the foundation to be filled back in.

But today, Brown and Craycraft are pleased to see that all proper paperwork is complete and submitted, allowing the project to continue forward.

With another break in the winter weather expected next week, Craycraft said he hopes to have the concrete for the wall poured, which would stand through the winter and spring until the granite memorial slabs are ready to be put into place.

“It’s going to be by far one of the best monuments honoring our Vietnam veterans in Michigan,” Craycraft said. “I’m not building this for me, I’m building it so we can respect all the veterans that we have lost … I’m sure everyone has that respect, but the fact that they can come here and display it, that will be special.”

The monument will one day include the names of all 2,654 Michigan veterans who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. In front of the large wall-like monument will stand a second monument cut in the shape of Vietnam, featuring a map of the country so visitors and veterans alike can see where battles took place.

And plans are also in development to create a path, which would be designated the “Walk of Honor,” between the site of current WWI, WWII, Korean War and “All Services” memorials, to the Vietnam War Memorial.

According to Craycraft, 12 pillars will line the walkway, individually honoring the five veterans of Belding and seven of Greenville who lost their lives fighting in the war.

At the center of the walkway, a “round-a-bout” in the walkway will be created, with a bronze field cross monument standing at its center.

Craycraft said he plans to have the work finished in stages as the project is estimated to cost approximately $165,000. The project is funded through donations, of which Craycraft has currently collected approximately $20,000.

Depending on how quickly donations come forward, Craycraft said the monument could be completed as early as Veterans Day of 2016, with hopes that it takes no longer that two years total.

“What drives me is the phone calls I get, the letters I get, of how people are so happy that finally Belding has something to pay tribute to all of these veterans,” he said.

For more information about the memorial or to donate, visit www.beldingveteranspark.com or call Craycraft at (616) 550 6990.

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