The Memorial: Past, Present and Future

Location- The Mecklenburg County Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located in Thompson Park near uptown Charlotte, NC at 1129 East Third Street.  Click here for a map & directions.


History- During the Vietnam War thousands of men and women from Mecklenburg County served our country and 105 gave their lives in this cause.  While the war was over in 1975 it was not until 1988 that local veterans, community leaders and citizens thought the time was right to build a memorial. The Mecklenburg County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee was appointed by county officials to guide the fundraising, design, construction and dedication of the memorial built to honor those who served and those who died in the Vietnam War.

Fundraising- No government funds were used to build the memorial.  Instead $356,000 in donations was received from corporations, foundations, veterans groups, a telethon and individuals. More than $100,000 was contributed from in-kind donations of construction materials, services and support. Approximately $16,000 remained to fund perpetual care and maintenance of the memorial.

Design- The memorial committee reviewed parks and other locations throughout Mecklenburg County. A preliminary site was found in uptown Charlotte but it was later moved to the grounds of Thompson Park, home of the original Thompson Orphanage campus. This location provided a beautiful setting and adequate parking near major streets in uptown Charlotte.  Project architects Little and Associates designed a memorial that starts at ground level and gently rises to a height of seven feet following the slope of the land.  The 270-foot granite arc is placed among huge oak trees, landscaping and benches.  The memorial panels include a timeline from 1959 to 1975 with an historical narrative of the war, designation of the US president serving at the time, a map of Southeast Asia, and excerpts of poems written by a local Vietnam veteran.  The names of Mecklenburg County servicemen who died in Vietnam are listed on panels dated from 1965 to 1972, in order of date of death.  The memorial wall and American flag are illuminated at night.

Construction- Ground was broken for the project on Memorial Day 1989. Granite came from a quarry in Elberton, GA and the descriptive information was sandblasted into the stone panels there.  The granite was trucked to Charlotte over a period of weeks and construction lasted five months. In September 1989 Hurricane Hugo devastated Charlotte but the trees and memorial at Thompson Park were spared.   

Dedication- The memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day 1989.  The event featured music by the Charlotte Oratorio Singers, instrumentalists and bagpipers and comments by elected officials, family representatives and veterans.  The memorial was unveiled by Vietnam veterans and project supporters and viewed by hundreds in attendance, including General William C. Westmoreland, commander of American forces in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968.  Since its dedication the memorial has been the site of numerous public observances and ceremonies.  Today it offers a place of quiet reflection, honor and education in the heart of the Queen City.

Future- Thompson Park and the memorial are adjacent to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. The project provides landscaped green space, walking and bicycle paths, water features, educational information and other amenities from the campus of Cental Piedmont Community College (CPCC) to Park Road Shopping Center. Eventually the linear park will run from uptown Charlotte to Pineville. The memorial is accessible from the greenway and educational information is provided for visitors.