This most recent addition to Washington's catalog of monuments and war memorials, this one dedicated to the men
and women who fought in the Korean War was built at the behest of an aging body of veterans who saw their conflict
"lost" in the longer shadows of World War II and the Viet Nam War. The building project was approved
by Congress in 1986 and dedicated nine years and $18,000,000 later by President Clinton.
My wife and I approached the memorial along a path that passes through a fairly thick stand of trees to the southwest
of the Lincoln Memorial. Turning a corner, we were met by a series of seven-foot tall stainless steel statues
of soldiers dressed in raingear, rifles at the ready, in point formation. The effect was rather startling: they
looked as if they really were on patrol through the stand of junipers at their feet. On close examination, some
of the faces looked gaunt, scull-like, and just slightly ghoulish. Shivers tend to run up and down the spine.
On the right, similar to the Viet Nam Memorial immediately opposite and on the other side of the Mall, is another
stone wall, this one free-standing and made of polished granite, which is etched, not with names, but with the
portraits of more than 2,500 servicemen and women along its 164 foot length. The effect of the etching is rather
ghostly, the images fighting through the reflections of the trees and the Mall for your eyes' attention. A bit
farther on is a large, round pool with the grim statistics of the war carved in the granite rim: of a total American
participation of 1.5 million men between 1950 and 1953, 54,000 died, over 110,000 were taken prisoner, and 8,000
went missing. As a backdrop to the pool stand a flag pole and another free-standing wall stating simply and eloquently
that "Freedom is not free."