A new plaque memorializing Petaluma veterans who died during the Vietnam war will be dedicated on May 30, about 6 months after the original was stolen from Walnut Park, shocking the community.
It will also be 44 years to the day since the original was placed there on May 30, 1969.
The original plaque, depicting a pair of hands held together in prayer for soldiers over the crescent moon shape of Vietnam, was originally created by a famous, Cuban-born artist who lived in Petaluma, Rosa Estebanez. It was done so at the behest of several young Petaluma men who lost friends in the war. They established the plaque in 1969 in memory of 16 Petaluma men who lost their lives in the Vietnam war.
The plaque went missing in December, presumably stolen for the value of its metal. The theft galvanized the community, drawing support and donations from groups ranging from the Petaluma firefighters' union to local veterans organizations to the area's Vietnamese association.
The new plaque will feature many of the same elements as the original, but thanks to the numerous donations that flowed in, it will be larger and feature marble. One of Estebanez's students, Maureen Frances, designed the new memorial, which will sit on a slate base and be held in place with granite and other devices meant to prevent another theft. A flag pole has been erected nearby.
At the same time, Petaluma Valley Rotary and the Petaluma Service Alliance have been making other patriotic improvements to the park, including the installation of a bench honoring veteran and Rotarian Ron Flagg, as well as red, white and blue landscaping.
Thursday's ceremony will include presentations by project coordinator Joe Noriel, The U.S Coast Guard, Vietnam veterans, friends of the deceased men and a special tribute by the Petaluma High School Choir, as many of the fallen soldiers once attended Petaluma High School.
(Contact Jamie Hansen at jamie.hansen@ar guscourier.com.)