By Marcy Norton

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hundreds of people turned out for today’s rededication of the Philadelphia memorial honoring Vietnam War veterans.

The names of 646 Philadelphians who died in the Vietnam War are etched in the granite walls of the newly dedicated Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial, at Penn’s Landing.

 

(Mayor Nutter, third from right, joins in a ribbon-cutting to officially reopen the city's Vietnam War memorial after a seven-year makeover.  Photo by Marcy Norton)

(Mayor Nutter, third from right, joins in a ribbon-cutting to officially reopen the city’s Vietnam War memorial after a seven-year makeover. Photo by Marcy Norton)

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Ralph Galati of Chester, Pa. (third from left in photo) made it back from the war alive — but only after 14 months as a prisoner of war at the notorious Hanoi Hilton, where he was starved, beaten, and deprived of sleep.

“The only constants were isolation, fear, beatings, starvation, interrogation,” he told those assembled today.  “Your only companions mosquitos and geckos and rats.”

But, he told the hundreds gathered here today, he knew he still had a mission: to resist.

Stories like his made the vandalism and misuse of the Vietnam War memorial over the years seem especially egregious.  Now, after seven years of fundraising and redesign, the expanded and open memorial is more accessible and worthy of those whom it honors.