Veterans Memorial Park in Lake Charles turns 50 years old in November.
It was right in the middle of the Vietnam war that brothers Gene and Del Dolan thought Lake Charles needed some sort of memorial to those who died in the unpopular war. The two Korean War veterans came up with the idea of a Martin Bird Tower.
“The people that made those bird houses donated $18,000 worth,” said Dolan. “Then, we got a radar tower from the airport and put that out there and put it on a concrete base.”
So, the idea of a Veterans Memorial Park began. Years later, more features were added, but in 2005, the bird tower came down.
“Hurricane Rita tore up everything. When it hit, it just dismantled everything. So, we took them all down and took the tower down. Then we got a helicopter from Fort Polk.”
His brother Gene is dead now, but Del still likes to visit the park.
“I walk around there and the first thing I do is go over to my brother’s plaque right in front of the helicopter. I go there and look at all the bricks. I just look and say, ‘it’s come a long ways in 50 years.’”
Thanks to the Dolan brothers and others, veterans from all over SWLA have a place of solitude and remembrance.
"Some people in their lifetime never get to do anything meaningful. My brother and I wanted to do something meaningful."
To Dolan's knowledge, the bird tower was the first memorial in the nation to be built remembering those who died in the Vietnam War.