The Onondaga Country Korea/Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by architect Kevin Kane and dedicated on November 11, 1984. The Monument is composed of two opposing vertical forms, representing the two conflicts. The base consists of five risers for the five branches of military services involved in Korea and Vietnam. The abrupt vertical edge of each reflects the lack of resolution of both wars. Following the rise of the top edge of each form leads to American flags; one for each theater of conflict. The material is mirror polished red granite. The monument is a “living” testimony to all who served.
Two local veterans came up with the idea for a Korean – Vietnam War monument. By January 1983, they were able to get other local veterans excited about the idea, and a working committee of the Onondaga County Korea Vietnam War Memorial was meeting one night a week. When they began soliciting money for the project, these veterans met with the same lack of enthusiasm many of them encountered when they came home from the war. The committee persisted, and the city donated a parcel of land opposite the Hotel Syracuse. Onondaga County and the state each contributed $75,000, and more than $20,000 was raised in private donations. The polished, red granite monument was estimated to cost more than $150,000.
Kevin L. Kane, the designer of the Onondaga County Korean Vietnam Memorial monument had never made a monument or a statue before. Kane says the forms represent the steep escalation and lack of resolution of each war. Each triangle is flanked by an American flag. No names are inscribed in the monument because the committee wanted it to be a memorial to both the living and the dead. Following guidelines from the committee, Kane’s design followed a representation of the five branches of the armed forces in the two wars. “The five steps are symbolically the foundation on which our country stands, and that is by its representation in the Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Army.”
Kane, at 33, reflected on personal memories when attempting to put “some lines down on paper and design something that would remind the veterans in Syracuse that they have not been forgotten. I’m not a veteran, but my brother [Coleman Kane] was killed in the Vietnam War. . .”
The guidelines for designing the monument were:
- The two wars had to be equally represented.
- The five branches of military service had to be included.
- There had to be at least one American flag.
- The monument and flag must be illuminated.
- Names of casualties or persons missing in action from Syracuse must be either entirely included or excluded.
- The monument had to be maintenance-free.
Kane’s design won over five other entries. A groundbreaking ceremony for the monument was held on November 11, 1983.