Art teacher designs monument

Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:34 AM

John Morgan had never designed a monument before. 

Morgan, an art teacher at Prospect and New Salem Elementary Schools, has been an artist most of life, but mostly worked with paint. 

However, through a chain of events he and his friend Greg Jones, a Sun Valley High School graduate, were asked if they wanted to submit a design and they did. 

“Next thing we know they’re cutting rock,” Morgan said. “Next thing we know we’re making a monument.” 

He described it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Their design memorializes members of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines of the Vietnam War, a group that has become known as the “Ghost Battalion” or The Professionals. The monument was dedicated Friday at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Vir. 

An article by Phil Leslie in a 2009 newsletter said he is not sure where the Ghost Battalion nickname comes from. Some stories say it came from “Hanoi Hannah” and others say it stems from when the battalion was tracking the North Vietnamese Army. Leslie retells a story that the battalion was moving in a wide formation silently and in the dark. When the battalion finished the North Vietnamese Army Commander said the battalion was not there and an intercepted message made a reference to a ghost battalion.

Morgan said the monument is pretty straight-forward. It is an obelisk with the names of the marines, unit honors, history and other facets. 

He said it was a collaborative effort between himself, Jones and veterans in Union County and from elsewhere. 

“I’m blown away,” Morgan said. “I’m used to painting portraits and doing other weird graphic design stuff that a lot of people might see, but I don’t think necessarily have the same sort of heft to it.”

Morgan said he hopes people enjoy the monument and that it will probably be more impactful than the portraits he has painted. 

“This is definitely the most honored I’ve been to partake in anything,” he said. “I couldn’t be more honored and couldn’t be more excited to see it.”