The history of The Highground is described best by the man who started it all, Tom Miller:
“I really began this Project many years ago, in 1964, while serving in the 2nd Bn/7th Marines in
California. This is where I met my partner, Jack Swender. Jack was from Kansas City, Kansas.
We landed in Qui Nhon, Vietnam on the 7th of July, 1965. We soon set up our battalions
headquarters. It was located 15 miles west of that beautiful city in what was once an old
French artillery base during the early 1950's. Set off the road, there were huge pits dug into
the ground about 5 feet deep. These pits ended up being internment camps for suspected
The final day came as many came in Vietnam: gray, overcast, heavy-aired, with drizzle, but
very quiet. If you want an in depth writing on what happened that day, see Solid Contact for
2/7. We had slept in dirty water, 5" deep, just a few nights before and we were soaked to the
bones. We smelled and we were tired to say the least. Some small contact was made during
the morning. We had just finished lunch in a hut and were moving through a small market
hamlet named Ky Phu, when the 80th Battalion of hard-core Vietcong hit us. We were cut in to
two groups with Jack and I being at the end of the first group.
Tom and Rose Marie Miller
Overlooking the Meditation Garden
We didn't have to communicate to each other the fact that we had to hold the town from being
overran by the Vietcong as they were trying to move a 50 caliber machine-gun into the middle
of it. We held them off for I would say 15 - 20 minutes before a recoilless rifle shell blew apart
the rear wall of the house we were in. I like to think and I do believe that our action saved
many Marines their lives that day, although it did cost Jack his.
I believe it is needless to say that the day that Jack died in my arms was the saddest day in
my life. One grows to love another when they are that close. In late 1983, I again picked up the
drive to produce our memorial. The mood of America had changed and I had come in contact
with a group of Vietnam veterans (Vietnam Veterans of America - Wisconsin delegation).
Through them, the outstanding network needed to produce this Project could be developed. It
wasn't until late 1984 that people started to believe that I was really going to do something and
then they slowly fell into place and supported the Project.”
And so it began.
The Highground has evolved to be a memorial park that pays tribute to the dead, and
honors the survivors, their service, and their sacrifices. It also pays tribute to the people who
supported them when they were away and upon their return.
Today, The Highground has tributes to Vietnam Veterans, Women Veterans, the Native
American Vietnam Veterans, WWI Veterans, WWII Veterans, Korean Veterans and families
that supported and lost loved ones through the Gold Star Tribute and Fountain of Tears. In
addition, The Highground has a Dove Effigy Mound, A United In Service Tribute, a Meditation
Garden, a developmental forest with 4 miles of hiking trails and a Learning Center.
We will continue to pursue our mission of healing and education through added tours,
Educational Days, Diversity Day and various expos.
The Highground, once a field with a beautiful view, has grown into a wonderful park
encompassing that view, adding to the Spirit of The Highground.