Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Bald Hill

researched and written by Krish Malik

In 1986, County Executive, Peter Cohalan, established a Commission with the objective of constructing a memorial dedicated to Vietnam Veterans. Situated on six acres of Suffolk County parkland at Bald Hill Scenic Overlook in Farmingville, the Memorial takes the form of a 100-foot tall-tapered spire crafted from marble and aluminum. Inscribed with 256 names commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service, this monument claims the distinction of being the second-highest point on Long Island. It is positioned off County Road 83 north of the Long Island Expressway in Brookhaven Town. The spire, glowing in red, white, and blue, commands visibility from Connecticut to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Memorial Design Competition

A design competition was conducted to solicit innovative ideas for a distinctive and enduring memorial encompassing 6 ½ acres of land dedicated to all Vietnam veterans. Steve Hayduk P.E., serving as the Executive Director of the Suffolk County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission, highlighted an additional memorable touch to the memorial site. Nine Weeping Cherry Trees were planted near the memorial by the Long Island Nurserymen’s Association (LINA) in remembrance of Long Island’s POW/MIAs from the Vietnam era.

The project garnered attention and support on a global scale, with over 7,000 letters pouring in from individuals across every state in the United States and thirty-four foreign countries, including Iran, Iraq, and China. From its inception, the monument symbolizes a tribute to the service, heroism, and sacrifice of Vietnam veterans, acknowledging both those who served and the survivors. The overarching goal is for the memorial to play a role in the healing process to address the enduring trauma of the war years. It fosters a collective sense of reconciliation and remembrance.

Home of Over 45,000 Vietnam Veterans

Suffolk County, home to over 45,000 Vietnam veterans, boasts the largest concentration of such veterans in the United States. Of these, 250 made the ultimate sacrifice, with ten still listed as missing in action. The memorial has an approximate development cost of $1.3 million that was made possible through a combination of $400,000 in cash donations and over $1 million in services contributed by volunteer craftsmen.

The architectural vision behind the memorial was realized by Bob Fox, himself a Vietnam veteran. Fox aimed to encapsulate the thoughts and emotions of soldiers during the Vietnam War Era in the design, resulting in a four-sided spear with the American Flag, adorned with blue and white stars, embracing the tip. Leveraging the topography of Bald Hill, Fox envisioned a “lighthouse or beacon effect” for the memorial.

On Veterans Day, November 11, 1991, at 4:30 pm ET, the illumination ceremony for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument took place. Mr. Hayduk, alongside Gold Star mothers—women whose sons perished in the war—activated the illumination by flicking a switch. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Henrietta Acampora extended invitations to residents and families to partake in this significant event, where the community collectively expressed a heartfelt “Welcome Home at Last.”

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a prominent landmark in Suffolk County, etching itself into the collective memory of all those who encounter it.