Alpine dedicates highway to Vietnam veterans |

Alpine dedicates highway to Vietnam veterans

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau
Vietnam Veteran Arnold Rakow with a photo of himself when he joined the U.S. Army.
Lisa Gavon/Special to The R-C

“We had to run like hell to our bunkers every evening to avoid mortar rounds going off.” reported Vietnam Veteran Arnold Rakow. “Just outside where we slept the Army fired back with a set of twin forties: two forty-caliber cannons on a track.” This was in the Mekong Delta, just one mile from the elaborate system of jungle pathways known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Trail was a military supply route used to infiltrate weapons, manpower, ammunition, and other necessities from communist-led North Vietnam to their supporters in South Vietnam.

Residing in Alpine County, Rakow served in the United States Army from 1968-1971 with the 46th and 103rd Corps of Engineers. His first twelve months were spent in Long Binh where he worked as a mechanic. He arrived there about a year after one of surprise attacks known collectively as The Tet Offensive: when North Vietnam and Viet Cong assault forces were repelled by South Vietnamese and American troops.

For the next six months he was stationed in Bien Hoa to work on generators and loaders at the rock quarry. Arnold was then relocated to Fort Knox, Kentucky to work on heavy tanks.

“Today, I’m no longer as agile as I once was due to poor health,” he said. “I went into the Army a young and innocent kid, not knowing what to expect. All of us were still wet behind the ears but later came out as men. We did what we were told and served our country. I have my good and bad memories.”

The Alpine County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution to honor Alpine Vietnam Veterans like Arnold Rakow. California State Highway 88 from the California State line to five miles east will be recognized as the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Highway.

This resolution states that many of our community members served in the US Military during the Vietnam War with the support of friends, family, and loved ones. Acknowledging these important contributions will help us to remember their intense personal sacrifices, courage, and steadfast sense of patriotic duty.

In addition to Rakow, these are the other Alpine County individuals that were in the military during the Vietnam years: Larry Barr, Jim Dunn, Donavan “Dale” Dutchy, Robert Harris, Don Jardine, Richard Lindsay Jones, Jim Long, John Padilla, Raymond Payne, Sr., Maynard Rakow, Tom Sweeney, and Jimmy Vann. Members of our community are actively looking for any others that are not yet on the list so they can be included and honored. Please leave a message for Nani Ellis at (530) 694-1816.

The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Highway Dedication Ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Everyone is invited to gather to watch the unveiling just past the Douglas County, Nevada and Alpine County, California State line on the right hand side of the road. Speakers include CalTrans Director Dan McKinley, Supervisor and Veteran Don Jardine, Commander Frank Greenwood of the Disabled American Vets, and Chairman of the Woodfords Community Council Irvin Jim. A bagpiper will play, and all are welcome to come and show their respect. These highway signs signify our gratitude and remind the many thousands of visitors to Alpine County of our Vietnam Veterans who bravely offered their service to our country.