Clifford Blend was a Marine's Marine, a career soldier and veteran of three wars, including the war in Vietnam that claimed the life of his oldest son and namesake 13 years ago.
The pain of that loss will never subside, says Blend, now a deputy in the Prince George's County Sheriff's Department. But the veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam also believes that a memorial to Clifford Craig Blend Jr. and other county natives who served in Vietnam might ease the lingering anguish.
"The timing wasn't right before, but now we should say that yes, young men died in Vietnam," said Blend, 54, a member of a committee now trying to raise $20,000 for a Vietnam War memorial. "I'm approaching this as a parent. The thing I dwell on . . . is the fact that I lost a son and so did others.
"Our sons never received the recognition they were due."
Plans for the monument, however, were overshadowed earlier this month by a squabble in Upper Marlboro, the county seat where Blend and other veterans want the memorial erected.
Some of the town's residents objected to the group's proposal to name the park around the monument for James Albert Graham, a Brandywine resident and Marine Corps captain who was killed in Vietnam in 1968. The park would be located north of the county administration building and would include Schoolhouse Pond.
"We are all for putting up some sort of little memorial," said Helen M. Wilson, a town commissioner who has lived in Upper Marlboro for 53 years. "But that pond has been called Schoolhouse Pond for many generations.
"Its name should stay 'Schoolhouse,' " Wilson said. "It shouldn't change for one particular person."
Graham, posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, was typical of the hundreds of Prince George's County residents who served in Vietnam, said Blend, a Piscataway resident and retired Marine sergeant. "He was from a small town, just like my own kids. And he left home to fight for his country."
Blend's son Clifford, a 20-year-old Marine corporal, was killed in January 1970 when his small unit was overrun by a North Vietnamese army company.
To avoid a confrontation with Upper Marlboro's residents, Blend and other members of the fund-raising committee later proposed naming the park next to the pond for Graham while letting the pond's old name stand.
Upper Marlboro's rural setting and county government center make it "the most obvious and appropriate place for a memorial," Blend added.
Next week, a fund-raising committee that includes Sheriff James V. Aluisi and several Vietnam veterans will form a nonprofit corporation to solicit money for two monuments, Blend said. Several Prince George's businessmen already have pledged donations toward the construction, he said.
Preliminary monument plans called for a tablet listing the names of all county residents who served in Vietnam, but Blend now says the monument will likely consist of two plaques: one a marble-and-bronze edifice bearing Graham's name, service record and a replica of the Medal of Honor; the other a bronze tablet "dedicated to all the county sons who served in the Vietnam conflict."
Graham is believed to have been the only county resident to receive the Medal of Honor for duty in Vietnam.
The park may be dedicated as early as May 14, Marboro Day, which marks the founding of Prince George's in 1695, officials said.