More than 400 people attended a 1971 ceremony that saw the dedication of 14 bronze plaques in memory of western Nevada County servicemen who died in Vietnam, The Union reported April 26 of that year.
On Monday, several local military service organizations will continue the effort to bring hundreds more to view those plaques — and those that have since been installed — in honor of their namesakes with the Local Heroes Memorial Bridge Tour, which offers a trio of tours open to the public.
A walking tour of the Grass Valley Memorial Bridges and a bus tour of Nevada City, Nevada County and Grass Valley memorial bridges will be offered between 1 and 3 p.m. Monday, following the 11 a.m. Memorial Day services at Grass Valley’s Memorial Park. A bicycle tour of the bridges, led by Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop owner Connie Strawser, begins earlier in the day, immediately following the 9 a.m. Memorial Day ceremony in Pioneer Park. Strawser’s husband, Nevada City Mayor Duane Strawser, had intended to participate, but said he sustained injuries in a recent crash that will keep him off the bike Monday.
“It’s our hope this event becomes an annual celebration of our soldiers’ lives,” said Patricia Nelson, a member of the Sierra Nevada Blue Star Mothers of America chapter. “The bike tour is the first step toward connecting the events in Nevada City and Grass Valley.”
“We want to get our military (service) groups to start working together because we have so many veterans here. Our veterans make up over 10 percent of our population,” added Catherine Ione-Perkins, another Blue Star Mother. “Most of us have family who have fought in some war or another.”
Ione-Perkins said she was a member of the “anti-war crowd,” but her own son’s desire to serve his country in the armed forces opened her eyes a bit wider.
“It was a life-changing experience. If it hadn’t been for my son, I wouldn’t have ventured into what my own brother went through as a veteran,” she said. “My brother was 11 years older than me and didn’t share with me what he’d gone through. To have my own son say he wanted to become a Marine, even though his uncle told him not to, I owe my son so much.
“Being able to join Blue Star Mothers and sharing each other’s stories, the soldiers become our extended family. And to honor those who have fallen is to honor each of our family members.”
Last year, the first year the walking tours were offered, saw several of the community’s veterans surprise organizers by coming out and talking about their service and those of others. Ione-Perkins said organizers had hoped to send thank-you cards to them but had no address or contact information for them.
“Some veterans heard about the event by word of mouth and just showed up,” she said. “It was great, but we still have thank-you cards to give them from last year. We hope they come back out. There were a half-dozen who just had heard about it. It’s important to thank them because their network is very vital in the community.”
Volunteers from Friends of Nevada County Military and local chapters of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Marine Corps League, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Blue Star Mothers of America, Nevada County Consolidated Veterans Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Welcome Home Vets, among other organizations, will lead the tours.
Contact Managing Editor Brian Hamilton via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 530-477-4249.