BUFFALO - On July 7, 1984, the day the Western New York Vietnam Veteran Memorial opened at the Naval Park, temperatures hovered in the upper forties. It was one of the coldest July days on record in the history of the city.
Jim Zucarelli, a Vietnam veteran himself, remembers that day fondly.
"My daughter was a year old," Zucarelli said, "We had her in a snowsuit."
Oh, how things have changed in three decades. At a re-dedication ceremony on Sunday to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the monument, the weather cooperated this time, pleasing the crowd with a picture-perfect, sunny afternoon.
But the weather's not the only thing that changed over time.
During the Vietnam Era, there were no ceremonies like the one at the Naval Park on Sunday. There was no playing of the national anthem or standing ovations. No speeches about respect and love for our members of the military.
"We were spit at, swore at," Bill Lucas said. "I don't think that's right."
"It was really god awful, really not good at all the way we were treated," Jay Wopper said.
That's why events like this re-dedication mean so much to Vietnam veterans.
"Seeing people come together -- in a way they didn't come together when they came home from Vietnam -- means the world to us," said Sandy Krege, a Gold Star Mother whose husband served in Vietnam. "They did not receive the support, the love, the community appreciation, and now that has changed dramatically."
Beyond the sentimental importance of the memorial, it also needed a physical makeover after thirty years. A community-led fundraising effort has netted almost $9,000 at this point. The monument has already been refurbished, but it still needs additional repairs.
Fundraising will continue, and a trust fund will be created to ensure that future generations will keep the memorial in tip-top shape.
"We're all in our sixties," Zucarelli said. "30 years from now, it's going to be our grandchildren, maybe our great grandchildren, who will have to step up to the plate and continue the rehabilitation and restoring."