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VVA says No, Scruggs says Yes to add Vietnam Native soldier

RENO, Nev. — A Seminole Tribe of Florida resolution promoting the addition of an American Indian figure to the Three Servicemen Vietnam Memorial on the Washington, D.C. Mall was defeated by Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) voters during the VVA’s national convention at the Silver Legacy Resort, Aug. 15-21.

Ten days later, however, well-known Vietnam Veterans’ advocate Jan Scruggs agreed to support the effort during a phone interview broadcast nationally on Situation Report, a syndicated Fox News Radio veteran’s show. Show hosts Bill Thomas and Dr. Bob Primeaux interviewed Scruggs using a list of questions provided by Seminole Tribal citizen and Vietnam vet Stephen Bowers.

“I am certainly not opposed to (adding a fourth statue depicting an American Indian serviceman),” said Scruggs, the current CEO of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund and the major force behind the creation of the famed Washington, D.C. Memorial, which includes the Vietnam Wall, the Three Servicemen Statue and the Vietnam Woman’s Memorial. “It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require the approval of Congress, the approval of the President. You’re facing an unbelievable uphill battle.”

Scruggs suggested that supporters of the proposal, spearheaded by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, might find it easier to connect with the Vietnam Veteran’s Education Center, an underground facility planned next to The Wall. “Your manpower hours might be better spent in creating a display or something at that Center,” said Scruggs, who was on a nationwide tour to raise money and support for the Education Center.

Hosts Thomas and Primeaux, however, discounted that idea, providing data that indicated one out of every eight American Indians have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. “A lot of American Indian veterans believe that if they are not represented with the Three Servicemen, people will believe they did not serve in battle.”

“Whatever you do, never give up,” Scruggs said. “Keep moving and running.”

The VVA is one of several Vietnam-era veterans’ groups that have refused support for the proposal, which seeks to correct the apparent omission of an American Indian soldier to the popular memorial depicting Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic soldiers near the famous Vietnam Wall. But Scruggs said he believed that the third soldier was not Hispanic but represented “all the other minorities, including American Indians.” It is widely believed, however, that the late sculptor Frederick Hart chose those ethnic groups with the largest total of servicemen during the 20-year (1955-1975) War.

“It’s early in the game, I guess,” said Bowers, whose recent Seminole Tribune editorial demanding the monument change has been widely reprinted throughout Indian Country. “These things take time. It’s a really big deal to make any kind of changes on the Mall.”

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