WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Vietnam veterans in Warner Robins have wanted the city to build a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the area near Buc-ee's for years now, but it still hasn't happened yet.
The city has been talking about this project for more than a decade.
According to the mayor's office, they are still negotiating.
Hank Griffiths gave more than 27 years of his life to the U.S. Air Force, including a year in the Vietnam War.
"We had a mayor in Warner Robins that named Vietnam Parkway, and that was a great thing, so we had the ball rolling and we wanted to keep it going, so we thought, 'What could we do? Build a memorial off the interstate and people would stop in here.' It's been a long time coming, a very long time coming. We've been close numerous times. We've been frustrated a lot by it. It's just so slow, moving at a snail's pace," Griffiths said.
Rich McKee flew 1-30s in the Vietnam War, and served in the Air Force for 21 years.
They are two of many Vietnam veterans waiting for finalized Vietnam Veterans Memorial plans.
"It's time to march forward. Heck, I am 79 years old, and I'd like to see this completed before I am completed," McKee said.
"Just been frustrating trying to get it going and moving, but we've got a mayor now that listened to us. It looks like she is going to follow through," Griffiths said.
According to Mayor LaRhonda Patrick, the city is negotiating land to house the memorial.
Once negotiations are finalized, Mayor Patrick says the final purchase agreement will be sent to the city's attorney.
After City Attorney Julia Mize reviews the contract, mayor and council will convene a closed executive session to discuss the real estate deal.
The parties will then discuss the contract and determine if everyone is in agreement of the terms of the contract.
Then, the council will vote to give Mayor Patrick permission to sign that contract.
"It's not easy to close on the land itself. That has been a problem that the owner of the land and the city is trying to work through," McKee said.
Vietnam veteran Tom McLendon thinks Mayor Patrick will get it done.
"So far, she has lived up to it. I think she's got the votes to push this forward, and we are kind of excited about it. I give her all the credit in the world. It'll be up to city council to vote it in," McLendon said.
In March, Warner Robins mayor and council created a Vietnam Veterans Memorial board and a Vietnam Veterans Issues Board to help oversee the project.
McKee serves on the boards with McLendon.
When 13WMAZ asked if the board meetings were productive, McKee said, "I really don't know yet, but the board is a great big improvement over just waiting and not knowing what's going on. By having the board, we are kept informed with what the city is doing."
McLendon says he appreciates being in the loop.
"There is communication now, where there was no communication previous years," McLendon said.
Griffiths hopes a memorial will one day reflect and honor the men and women who died.
"It's not about us. It's about over 1,500 military men who didn't come back. They just didn't come back. They're either missing or they died in action. That's what the whole thing is about," Griffiths said.
Mayor Patrick did not say when the city might be signing paperwork to purchase land, but one of the veterans 13WMAZ spoke with said, she told them, it could be anytime within the next month.
13WMAZ reached out to Mayor Patrick. In a statement, she said quote:
"As the citizens and veterans of our community understand, I am passionately dedicated to bringing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to fruition. We are in the heart of the negotiation process right now. Once the negotiations have been finalized, the City’s attorney has reviewed the documents, and City Council has agreed on the terms, the contract will be sent to my desk for signature. And, of course, the people of Warner Robins can rest assured that I will sign that deal promptly and with pride."