on October 8, 2009
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a memorial for those that served in Vietnam, whether by choice or not, and honors those that made it home, and those that still aren’t home yet. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is in the Constitutional Gardens, located directly adjacent to the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial consists of 3 different parts. The largest is the black granite Memorial Wall on which the 58,000 plus names of U.S. service men and women killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War. There are also two statues, one of The Three Soldiers, honoring the U.S. servicemen, and the Women’s Memorial, honoring the women who served.The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is a V-shaped wall consisting of two 246 feet 9 inch sections of black granite. The Wall is sunk into the ground like a retaining wall. It starts at around 8 inches tall at the ends and goes to 10 feet high in the middle, where it is the tallest. One end of the Wall points towards the Lincoln Memorial, the other points to the Washington Monument. The black granite walls are very reflective, almost like a mirror, and feature the names of those killed or missing etched into them. In order to find the names on the panels, there are banks of name directories on covered podiums next to the ends of the Wall. The directories are the size of large phone books and list the names in alphabetical order by last name and also list the date of birth, death, place of birth, branch of service, and the section and row of the Wall where their name is located. The Memorial Wall is counted by panels east and west of the center, then you would count down from the top the number of rows. A friend had asked for me to find his best friend from high school on the wall. It wasn’t too hard finding the name. One thing that struck me is how many names there were. The name I was looking for was almost lost is a sea of other names. The Vietnam War is recent enough that most people will know someone that has served or was killed in Vietnam. I think this fact, coupled with the sheer number of names on the wall, served to make me step back and reflect a bit. Even though I was only a small child and don’t have any childhood recollections of the Vietnam War, finding my friend’s best friend’s name on the wall put me in a somber mood. There were various flowers, flags, and other personal mementos to loved ones lost on the ground in front of the panels of the Memorial Wall.The Three Soldiers statue is a life size bronze statue of three soldiers, one African-American, one Hispanic, the other Caucasian-American. They are carrying their weapons and all look quite tired. All three of them appear to be looking at the Memorial Wall. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is also a life size bronze statue. It honors the women who served in Vietnam, most of whom served as nurses. It features three uniformed nurses tending to a wounded soldier. The nurses are names Hope, Faith, and Charity.The Vietnam Veterans Memorial initially seemed like another popular tourist attraction to me. When I witnessed the Memorial first hand, saw my reflection in the granite with all the names of the dead and missing, watched people place flowers to loved ones, it really moved me and I’m glad I visited.
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