It's heartening, isn't it, the way veterans and people grateful to them have responded to the dismaying theft of a park plaque that honored the 15 Petaluma servicemen killed in Vietnam.

Kimchi Moyer, who was 7 when her family fled South Vietnam, is among those rallying to correct the outrage.

"Perhaps there could be something even better, and a little bigger," said Moyer, who chairs the Sonoma Vietnamese Association.

She has volunteered the association's assistance in the process to determine what should replace the bronze plaque stolen from downtown Petaluma's Walnut Park, and to help pay for it.

The response by the organization of local Vietnamese Americans is gratifying to Petaluma's Joe Noriel, and not surprising.

He presides over the association that runs the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum, which two years ago drew a large and emotional response to the special exhibit, "The Vietnam Experience: A Soldier's Story."

Something wondrous happened when members of the Sonoma Vietnamese Association seized that exhibit as an opportunity to meet Vietnam vets and express their gratitude to them and all the Americans who died in that war.

"It was amazing, the healing that took place and the friendships that were made," Noriel said.

Kimchi Moyer said she and others in the Vietnamese Association see the community response to the theft of Petaluma plaque as another opportunity to thank those who fought defending their freedom.

"This gives us another chance to join together," she said.