From his home less than a mile away, Frank Vaughn tries to come to Proctor Park whenever he can.
Sometimes he takes an hour or two to care for the park, killing weeds and doing other maintenance. Other times he just comes to look at the names etched in limestone or brick monuments.
Being in the park, even for a few minutes, is a chance to reflect.
“It’s important to remind Americans about what this is. Freedom isn’t free, it never has been. If you want it, you have to be willing to sacrifice for it. That comes in a lot of different ways,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn spent his entire career in the military, last serving as chief warrant officer 5 in the Indiana Army National Guard. He was stationed in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971.
Vaughn gets emotional talking about the significance of Proctor Park in general. But the Vietnam Veterans Memorial touches something deeper in him.
“When you look at the names — I have a cousin on the wall right here. A good friend from high school is over there. When you think about that, and the sacrifice they made, you hope that you never forget what it took,” he said.
Vaughn was a senior in high school in 1969 when the announcement came over the loudspeaker that his former classmate had been killed.
“That had a profound effect on me,” he said. “I knew I’d be going to Vietnam, and I was fine with it. If my friends and my relatives could do it, it’s the least I can do too.”
When the ideas for Proctor Park were still being proposed, Vaughn joined as a charter member of the park committee. A New Whiteland resident since 1977, he felt compelled to volunteer, both with his military background and his ties to the town.
“I saw the concept of what they wanted to do, and was on board,” he said. “It really means something to have a place like this to go to.”