The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden is located on the slope of Mt Shasta, 13 miles north of Weed, California. It is situated on 136 acres of land provided by the Forest Service. The area was replanted with 58,000 trees by volunteers. The trees are living tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives in war, especially to commemorate those lives lost in Vietnam. The Garden pays homage to all veterans who served in conflict and in peace. It was founded by a group of Vietnam veterans in 1988.
There are currently eleven sculpture groups by artist Dennis Smith. The sculpture garden is a place for reflection, remembrance, healing, and reconciliation. The sculptures are spread out through the trees with each location providing some privacy for reflection. I originally hadn’t intended to walk throughout the entire sculpture garden, but when you visit the first statue, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, you are drawn in by a desire to see what else is there. The LMSG is a tribute to veterans of all wars, but there is a heavy flavor of Vietnam in many of the sculptures. The sculptor was a Marine who served one tour in Vietnam between October 1967 and November 1968. The sculpture that affected me the most was the POW/MIA. A soldier is in a cage with POW bracelets, wreaths, gifts, flags and flowers affixed to a frame that outlines the cage. It honors the sacrifice of soldiers held in captivity, never accounted for, or wrongfully locked up. It’s amazing that nearly 40 years after the US left Vietnam there is still so much pain from that experience.
In addition to the “official” sculptures, there are private memorials to individuals who have served and died. One of the most touching was honored a father and son. The father served in the Army during WWII while the son was a Marine. The son died in January 2005 while serving and his father died just 24 days later. It makes you wonder if the dad passed away as a result of grief from losing his son. The son’s head stone was decorated with little green toy soldiers and several ceramic angels.
The final piece of the Memorial is the Wall called the “Hot LZ”. It is topped by two helicopters landing on an LZ somewhere that a battle is raging. In the middle of the Wall, a bronze plaque honors LTC Ace Cozzalio, a decorated helicopter pilot, and a founding member of the LMSG. The plaque is surrounded by the names of those who served since WWII. Mt. Shasta looks over the Hot LZ.