Above: Joe Hoffman displays one of 500 T-shirts sold in honor of the 'McKeesport 23'
CORRECTION, NOT PERFECTION: The T-shirts are being sold at cost and are not being sold as a fundraiser, Hoffman told me this morning. I apologize for the error. Persons interested in a shirt may contact Joe Hoffman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Jason
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Organizers are in the final stages of fundraising for a permanent, public memorial to 23 young McKeesport men who died in the armed forces during the Vietnam War.
Joe Hoffman, retired White Oak police chief, said more than $5,400 has been raised toward the estimated $6,430 necessary to complete and install the granite memorial in the courtyard of McKeesport Area High School.
If all goes well, Hoffman said, the memorial will be unveiled at 12 noon May 13. At least 10 of the 23 families are expected to attend, he said. The public is also welcome.
Organizers, including Hoffman and local historian and volunteer Walt Yager of North Huntingdon Twp., have received donations from 46 people and have commitments to fund the remainder of the memorial's cost.
The memorial is being designed by Design Monuments of McKeesport and North Versailles Twp., he said. The school district will provide the footer, Hoffman said.
"One reason we selected the high school is that each of these men attended McKeesport High School," he said. Hoffman also hopes the presence of the monument will remind students in history classes of the men and women who have died in the armed services.
Yager and Hoffman became interested in the story of the 'McKeesport 23' while researching the history of a tablet at the LaRosa Boys and Girls Club on Ravine Street.
The club was still known as the "McKeesport Boys Club" when the tablet was dedicated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1966, in memory of five former members who were killed in Vietnam. By 1969, another six former McKeesport Boys Club members died in Vietnam and had their names added to the table.
Another 13 McKeesport residents --- not club members --- also died during the Vietnam War before the United States ended its major military involvement in 1973.
Hoffman, Yager and others now believe the McKeesport memorial at the Boys Club --- erected when many Americans were not yet paying attention to the far-away military action --- is among the earliest U.S. monuments to American lives lost in Vietnam.
"It's arguably the third-oldest in the United States," Hoffman said. "It predates the Vietnam Veterans' wall (in Washington, D.C.) by 18 years."
Hoffman said organizers are planning another T-shirt order. Persons interested in ordering a T-shirt may contact him at email@example.com.
The T-shirts are black with purple lettering, dry fit, long sleeve, Hoffman said. They are true to size. Costs are $17 for small through extra-large; $20 for XXL, and $22 for XXXL. If shirts need to be mailed, add $6 for every two shirts ordered.
Originally published February 09, 2017.