Veterans of the 3d Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment who served in Vietnam have come together to sponsor an exterior bench at the National Museum of the United States Army (NMUSA). The sponsorship comes from a four- month campaign to raise funds—$10,000 in total—for a bench to be placed on the Museum’s campus.
Leading the charge for this lasting tribute is Major General Thomas Lightner (USA-Ret.), a Founding Sponsor of NMUSA and a Sustaining Member of the Army Historical Foundation (AHF), who commanded the regiment in 1970-71 in the Danang-Chu Lai area.
Lightner explained that the unit began holding reunions some years after the war to reconnect with old comrades and share war experiences with their fellow veterans. “It was the outcome of these reunions,” Lightner noted, “that the notion of some sort of lasting recognition and tribute to this ‘Family of Vietnam Veterans’ was needed.”
Half of the sponsorship comes from the estate of Robert “Little Lou” Arestad—a Vietnamese war orphan who was essentially adopted by the unit in the summer of 1969 near the village of Thien Phuoc, Quang Ngai Province. Soldiers of Battery B came upon the young child whose parents had been killed by bombings in the nearby mountains. Lou (thus named by the unit) was of Montagnard birth (and a dwarf) which made him an outcast among many Vietnamese people. Lou quickly became an honorary member of the unit as he ran errands around the base while he healed and learned English. Lou was eventually adopted by an American family in Ferndale, Washington, and became a successful businessman in the United States. Lou passed away in 2016, leaving money in his estate for some sort of dedication to his friends of the 16th Field Artillery Regiment.
“We were very excited to work with the 16th Field Artillery Regiment to find the right sponsorship opportunity to honor the regiment’s service and the story of Little Lou,” remarked Kathleen Holt, AHF’s Associate Director, Donor and Member Programs. “Through the many different giving options, Soldiers and organizations are able to honor and tell their stories at the Museum.”
In reflecting on the importance of this memorial, Lightner concluded, “Service and comradery with Lou and the Soldiers of ‘Rolling Thunder’ were the highlight of my career and life in the U.S. Army. Having a lasting recognition of this group of distinguished veterans will honor this legacy for all to see.”
For more information on exterior benches and other sponsorship opportunities, contact Kathleen Holt at email@example.com or (703)562-4174.