Michael Tavel, 64, of Landover Hills said he doesn’t remember any warm welcome after returning home from combat during the Vietnam War in the early 1970s. He remembers feeling forgotten.
“We go over there, we get hurt, and we die and we’re forgotten,” Tavel said, who’s lived on Beale Street for 30 years.
That feeling is gone now, he said, especially thanks to veterans memorials like the one unveiled Monday at Henry Rinck Park in front of about 45 residents and local officials, including U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington, Prince George’s County Councilman Eric Olson (Dist. 3) of College Park and state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly.
“Something like this tells us that we’re not forgotten,” Tavel said.
The Landover Hills Veterans Memorial replaced a 1946 wooden memorial bearing 100 World War II town veterans’ names, said town Mayor Lee P. Walker.
A $50,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was used to fund the memorial, Walker said.
Town officials said they’ve never actually seen the original memorial, which deteriorated and disappeared, although no one knows exactly when.
Officials knew of the memorial from a single picture found in the town archives, said resident Mike Walker, 60, who served on the Town Council when its members began planning the memorial in 2008.
Efforts were delayed as the town sought funding, which arrived via the grant in October 2011.
“This town goes back to 1945. The town has a long history,” Walker said. “And the town has a long history of maintaining its history.”
Based on the photograph, town officials transferred the original World War II veterans’ names onto a metal plague that was embedded at the center of the new stone memorial, said Kathleen Tavel, the town manager and Michael Tavel’s wife.
Some names consist of just initials or a few blank spaces in between letters as they were impossible to read from the photograph, she said.
A group of Landover Hills police officers erected the U.S. Maryland and county flags behind the memorial.
The surface surrounding the memorial is made up of bricks, 37 of which were purchased by residents and engraved with the names of those who have served in all U.S. wars, from Vietnam to Afghanistan with the most recent dated 2013.
Residents purchased engraved bricks — and can still do so — for $40. Frances Motta, 83, who has lived on 71st Avenue for more than 50 years, purchased a brick engraved with the name of her brother, Fred Louis Verant.
Motta said the U.S. Army listed him as “missing in action” since 1951 when he never returned from combat during the Korean War.
Her brother, who was 23 years old when he went missing, has no grave, Motta said. He is memorialized through a small cross given by the Army in a cemetery in his hometown in Minnesota, and now in the Landover Hills memorial, not far from her front door.
“These kids that are killed in these wars are so young,” Motta said. “These kids don’t know a thing and they’re the ones that end up fighting, and the memorial makes them think a little about what’s going on. You’d be amazed how many people forget. People don’t understand what [war] means, unless it happens to them.”