LATONIA, Ky. — In Covington's Meinken Park, there is a large rock that bears far more significance to local veterans than its unassuming appearance suggests.
A plaque, mounted to that rock, bears the names of Vietnam veterans who sacrificed their lives in one of the United States' most unpopular wars.
"We came back and there was a lot of people who got name-called and a lot of bad things happened to them," explained Chuck Wills, a veteran of that same war and current member of American Legion Post 203. "A lot of people changed clothes as soon as they got back."
Wills, and other veterans of American Legion Post 203 feel this memorial doesn't do enough to pay homage to the 31 Covington residents who died in Vietnam. The post has banded together with nearby Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6095 to raise money to replace this memorial with one they feel is more accessible, accurate and deserving of the significance.
"It needs to be more accessible to all the veterans and their family and friends of these 31 Covington residents that gave all," said Wills. "You can't get in here unless there's a ball game or our Memorial Day service here."
The park, dominated by a large baseball field, isn't always open and accessible -- and when it isn't, the memorial inside isn't either.
And then there's the inaccuracies engraved into the plaque; Wills said some of the names on it are incorrect.
The Latonia Baptist Church is donating a piece of land for the new monument Wills and his fellow veterans hope will house a larger memorial that can provide a place of reflection and commemoration for local veterans and their loved ones.
"It will give the families and their friends and the other veterans a place to reflect and give thanks for their service," said Wills. "It means a lot. It means everything. We're going to build something that they can be really proud of."
The groups have started a GoFundMeto help raise the money needed for the project. Wills said the new memorial could cost up to $140,000, and they're hoping to raise $35,000 to $45,000 of it.