Restored Venice Vietnam POW/MIA Mural is unveiled on Memorial Day

By Arielle Brumfield

Emotions ran high as residents and community leaders gathered on Memorial Day to celebrate the unveiling of the newly restored Venice Vietnam POW/MIA Mural, vandalized with graffiti a year ago.

“This wall being restored is like healing a wound,” 70-year-old Vietnam veteran John Hamilton said as he pointed to a familiar name on the mural. “Gregory Harris was a friend of mine who took my place in an operation in 1966; he went missing, so seeing his name being restored on the wall makes this all so personal.”

Painted 25 years ago by a homeless Vietnam veteran, the mural at Pacific Avenue and Sunset Court honors 2,273 armed services members who did not return from battlefields in Southeast Asia. In May 2016, vandals coated much of the mural with graffiti, covering some of those names completely.

The Venice Chamber of Commerce and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin raised more than $30,000 to fund the restoration by the Venice-based Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC).

“The crime that was committed a year ago on Memorial Day weekend to deface this very mural was particularly heinous. And it was particularly beautiful to see the way this community came together to respond to that,” Bonin told the dozens who gathered for the ceremony.

Some who attended teared up at parts; many hugged each other, took photographs and spoke with veterans who attended to pay homage to their fallen brothers in arms.

“We come to Venice to celebrate the good being done in Venice,” Venice Chamber of Commerce President George Francisco said.

Longtime Venice resident Barbara Lonsdale, 48, said she was glad that SPARC and community leaders restored the mural to its original state, rather than a proposed alternative design.

“Many community members wanted it to be brought back to its original form to depict the names of the POWs,” Lonsdale said.