A Spokane Veterans Memorial Coliseum monument to soldiers missing or taken prisoner in Vietnam may end up missing itself when the new arena opens.
Officials of the new arena said they don’t have room for the Flame of Hope, which had stood outside the old Coliseum for more than two decades.
The flame burned out long ago, and now the pole-shaped monument lies in a warehouse next to the new arena.
The veterans group that headed the drive to install the monument isn’t happy with its efforts being relegated to storage.
“A lot of people went out there to war who never came back,” said Mick Jensen, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1435 in the Spokane Valley.
“Somehow they’re forgetting there are veterans around here.”
Jensen and his group want the monument moved to a memorial garden at the southeast side of the new arena.
A stone monument to all veterans is being moved from the old Coliseum to the memorial garden, and Jensen said there is no reason the Flame of Hope cannot be located there, too.
Bridgette Bossio, whose father was shot down on a bombing run over Vietnam in 1966, agreed. Galileo Bossio, never was found and was one of the men commemorated in the monument.
“It’s kind of sad they don’t want to put it back up,” Bridgette Bossio said.
Arena officials said they thought the veterans post wanted the monument returned to its headquarters near Sprague and Dollar Road. The previous post commander had told arena officials in 1993 the post would take it back.
Jensen said the full membership never agreed to that, and now veterans want arena officials to include the monument in the new landscaping.
He said nearly 1,600 soldiers still are listed as missing from Vietnam, and there were thousands of soldiers who never were found from the Korean War and World War II.
“We don’t mean this as a slight to veterans in any way,” said Kris Mote, executive director of the arena board. “It was clearly a misunderstanding.”
“This is one of those issues that causes a lot of heartache on both sides,” Mote said.
Arena officials have been careful not to overlook the significance of veterans at Spokane’s new arena. That’s why they decided to continue honoring those who have served by naming the new building Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Mote said.
Jim Ray, arena board chairman, said the board will reconsider its decision not to erect the pole monument during a meeting at 3 p.m. today.
He said the board decided earlier this month to install only the plaque that was attached to the monument, partly because the landscape design already is completed.
The 16-foot monument was dedicated on June 11, 1972, and a gas flame burned for several years at its top.
The flame was turned out after the war ended, even though prisoners and missing servicemen never were accounted for.
Jensen said veterans want to refit the monument with an electric light to replace the gas flame. He said cost should not be a problem.
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