Group aims to restore the Venice Vietnam POW/MIA mural, ravaged by time and graffiti

Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

By Joe Piasecki

The words “You Are Not Forgotten” appear in large block letters atop the Vietnam POW/MIA wall in Venice.

But to look at it, you might think otherwise.

Time has scarred and chipped away at the massive mural on Pacific Avenue at Sunset Court, and graffiti mars some of the 2,273 names of Vietnam-era service members still unaccounted for at the time of its creation by Vietnam veteran Peter Stewart in 1992.

“It’s sad. We need to do better,” says Kelly Layne, head of the Venice Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber in Action Committee, which has coordinated neighborhood beautification projects at schools and the LAPD Pacific Division Station as well as restoration of the gondola at Windward Circle.

The project has been stalled for more than a year, however, as the scope of work was found to be larger and more expensive than expected. Restoration of concrete, sandblasting and repainting may all figure in.

“The paint isn’t just chipping. In some places it’s crumbling down to the brick,” Layne says.

Now Layne is reaching out for collaborators to help get the job done. She said the project is already finding support from the offices of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Mike Bonin, Assemblyman Steven Bradford and the Venice Neighborhood Council, but she’s hoping others from the community will also get involved.

Floyd “Shad” Meshad, president and founder of the Westchester-based National Veterans Foundation, supported Stewart’s creation of the mural.

Stewart, who died in 1996, was a client of the veterans outreach and crisis response group (then known as the Veterans Aid Foundation) and was living in his van at the time, Meshad said.

“He wanted to do something as part of his healing. He had nightmares about the civilians killed … all the bombs dropped over there,” Meshad, who was in Vietnam as an Army medical service corps captain, said of Stewart, who served on a Navy aircraft carrier.

Stewart “had other homeless vets help him mix the paint, do some of the work,” Meshad said. “Every six months, we replace the flags.”

To find out more about the project, call (310) 822-5425 or email kelly@kellylayne.com.

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