Soldiers & Sailors Park gets restored

Created: 05/26/2014 11:03 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

This Memorial Day is a brand new beginning for a downtown Albuquerque veterans' memorial park.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 first reported about the Soldiers & Sailors Park on Central and 14th in March. 

It was worn down, neglected, and certainly not living up to its name as a Vietnam Vets Memorial. 

Community organizers were working hard to fix it up, and after our story about them aired -- many more New Mexicans stepped in to help. 

For two months, an army of volunteers has been fighting to rebuild the park and on Monday they re-gifted it to the community. 

"The park has never looked this good,” said Dick Deichsel on Monday. 

For years the Soldiers & Sailors Vietnam Memorial Park in downtown Albuquerque sat neglected, forgotten and in ruins. 

“It looked like it was more of an insult really, than a memorial,” said Don Johnson during an interview with KOB in March. 

Johnson and Deichsel are both veterans and both appeared in a KOB story on March 12 about their efforts to little-by-little keep up the park themselves as it deteriorated.

After the story, the response was huge.

"And the next day, our phone rang at the office and kept ringing with people wanting to donate time and money,” said Deichsel. 

One of those viewers was Air Force reserve major Nichole King Campbell. 

"I was like, something has to be done,’” she said.

Together -- Don, Dick and Nichole gathered up an army of volunteers and donations. 

They planted flowers and grass, installed solar lights and a donated granite marker to replace the old broken one. 

In just two months, the park transformed. 

“I was overwhelmed,” said Johnson. 

On Memorial Monday, dozens came to see the new Soldiers and Sailors park. 

For many, this moment meant far more than these three ever imagined. 

“I was here with some friends of mine, and we got out of the Kimo Theater,” said Lydia Smith. 

More than 60 years ago, Smith sat down with her friends on a bench here when a young Marine just back from WWII introduced himself. 

“It was the first time I was really in love,” she said. 

Smith married that marine three months later. 

“He passed away two years ago,” she said. 

That's why these three New Mexicans say this mission was so important, especially on a day like Memorial Day. 

“To see people come out and bring pictures of their loved ones and the veterans, that's the greatest thing to me,” said King-Campbell. “That tells us that we truly honored the people that this park was meant for.” 

Soldiers & Sailors Park on Memorial Day 2014.
Soldiers & Sailors Park on Memorial Day 2014.
Soldiers & Sailors Park sign before the renovation.

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