In 2001, inspired by their teacher Thomas Dzicek the students of
the Captain Nathan Hale Middle School decided not only to identify,
but to find out more about each of the Connecticut servicemen who
died in the Vietnam War. The project took one and a half Years and
resulted in a book titled “612,” a listing and biography of every
State Vietnam Veteran who died in the war. One of those patriots was
Robert Tillquist, a Combat Medic and a Distinguished Service Cross
recipient who died in the Pleiku Campaign on November 4, 1965. His
sister, Jean Risley, of Coventry had become personally involved in
their project. She was stirred by their effort but felt that a book
should not be the final memory, and that a memorial needed to be
created to honor these men, to thank them and to welcome them home.
She formed a group called the Connecticut Vietnam Veterans
Memorial Committee to raise money to establish a memorial to the 612
Connecticut men who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
While there had been a lot of support for a state memorial over
the decades, most proposals failed to take hold. In July of 2006 the
Committee started in earnest to contact various attorneys,
accountants and Coventry Town officials to determine the best way to
proceed. At a Town Council meeting she presented her thoughts,
plans, and desires for a memorial. The Town Council gave their full
support for the project and voted unanimously to provide a site for
the memorial. The Town Manager then researched town lands and
provided a list of possible choices. The final decision was made on
March 13, 2007 to place Connecticut Vietnam Veterans Memorial in
Veteran’s Memorial Green in Coventry.
Donation letters were sent to various Veterans’ Organizations,
businesses in Coventry and the general public, including those that
had lost someone dear in Vietnam. The support was overwhelming not
only from those in Connecticut, but from other states as well. Fund
Raisers; including a motorcycle run, dinners given by The American
Legion Riders and the West Shore Middle School in Milford helped to
raise enough funds to put a down payment on the memorial. As the
year closed the site for the memorial was being prepared.
The ground breaking ceremony in August of 2007 was attended by
many and the support continued to grow. It is hoped that this
memorial will make the Veteran’s, Coventry and the State of
Connecticut proud and remind future generations of their sacrifices.
Jean Risley and the entire committee would like to once again thank
everyone for their support and to welcome home our Vietnam Veterans.
The Memorial is shown below.