Groundbreaking ceremony takes place at Camp Pendleton for Vietnam memorial to honor ‘Fighting Fifth’

CAMP PENDLETON (KUSI) — A groundbreaking ceremony took place Friday at Camp Pendleton’s 5th Marine Regiment Memorial Garden for a memorial honoring the "Fighting Fifth" who fell in the Vietnam war. 

Vermont’s Rock of Ages quarry has been hewing the 50 tons of black granite into six large slabs. Along with a spire rising in the center of the monument, the memorial will display the names of 2,706 Marines and sailors killed in action while fighting for the three battalions that comprised the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam, plus the dead from 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines.

"I just got back from there," said Steve Colwell, the Carlsbad real estate developer who has spearheaded the building of the monument and who was seriously wounded near Hoi An while serving with D Company, 1st Battalion, Fifth Marines in 1967. "They needed us to approve the color and the polish of the granite."

With the stonework slated to arrive at Camp Pendleton on March 29 — National Vietnam War Veterans Day — the completed monument is expected to be dedicated on Memorial Day.

The groundbreaking ceremony drew a large number of contractors — many who are working on the project for free — plus elected leaders from Irvine, Dana Point, Rancho Santa Margarita and San Clemente, sponsors of the memorial.

A group of nonprofits — including the 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Association, the 1st Marine Division Association and the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group — have $276,607 in their coffers from donations, but they’re seeking about $130,000 more from the public.

They think that will be enough to complete the monument and host combat veterans nationwide who lack the funds to travel to California. Organizers estimate that more than 20,000 troops served in the Fifth Marines and 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines during the Vietnam War.

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