Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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November 11, 2012

Veteran's Wall a heart-felt tribute

Hubbard man finds own way to recognize service

Corsicana — Don Rogers, 64, a Vietnam Veteran and native of California, has built a veterans honor wall on his rural property half a dozen miles outside of Hubbard.

Rogers said he started the project after carrying around survivor’s guilt from a near-death experience in Vietnam in July 1969. A flight engineer, he’d just gotten off a helicopter before it crashed, killing everyone on board.

“That’s how I started the mission,” Rogers said. “I didn’t plan on doing the wall.”

His wall isn’t a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington with its dark slash of black granite that sinks into the ground. Rogers’ is a five-foot tall stone and concrete wall that parallels Farm-to-Market road 2114, and is marked with a tall series of flagpoles. The other difference is that his wall isn’t just for the dead. It’s for any veteran.

“Any person that’s been in the military can have their name on there, dead or alive,” he said. It’s not a memorial. I don’t want people crying out here. It’s something to make somebody feel good.”

Rogers’ neighborhood is very rural, and it’s a bit of a shock to see the exhibit from the road, but Rogers said he wanted it on his place rather than in town because he wanted to be able to watch over it and work on it as the mood struck.

“I can’t put this in a town,” he said. “Right here, I can take of it.”

“I’m the founder,” he said. “I’m the janitor.”

Rogers says he’s spent more than $20,000 on the entire conglomeration, including two very nice concrete driveways that fan out on either side of the wall like earthbound wings. Those are a new addition the highway department allowed to get people off the road, rather than having them parking in the ditch.

Rogers came to his six-acre site from near Austin, where he had relocated from California. A stint in a California prison taught him the value of his freedom, and of staying away from his old crowd, which is why he came to Texas. His parents have passed away, and his only family is a daughter and grandchild in Boston, Mass. A former concrete contractor, Rogers says he enjoys retirement and loves his home.

He hopes that his project, as modest as it is, will inspire some other people to show more appreciation to the veterans around them.

He allows other people’s names on his wall for $50, which includes the price of having a plaque printed up and posting it. Although one of the plaques lists volunteers to the project, he says he’s only been given $17 in donations.

“But the good Lord’s been good to me, so it’s going to happen,” Rogers said.

In addition to his construction project, Rogers is also working on finding some answers to his own demons through counseling at the Veterans Administration.

“I’m thankful the VA is offering these classes,” he said. “And this wall keeps me busy and helps me a lot — and it’s helping other people, too.”

Rogers has lofty goals for his project, including expanding the wall, buying some military equipment to park on the site, putting up concrete statues depicting one of each of the members of the different service branches, even putting up permanent structures where people can go inside and get out of the sun, look at photos from the various conflicts and read more about the history of these people.

“This is going to be a long-time thing,” he said.

Any veteran interested in having his or her name, or the name of another veteran on the wall of honor can contact Don Rogers at (254) 707-1348.

“I want to see that wall full of names, then the other two walls and I’ll fill those,” he said. “It’s going to go, no matter what.”

     —————

Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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