In Memoriam – The Vietnam Wall

There are some fantastic memorials in our nation that honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  Washington, D.C. is home to many of them, including the Vietnam Wall.

A grass roots effort by Vietnam Veterans, in 1979 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was established with the purpose of honoring those who had died during the War.  A year later, with over eight million dollars in donations, Congress approved a site near the Lincoln Memorial and announced that the design of the park would be selected via competition.  From over 1,400 submittals, a design by artist Maya Lin was chosen.

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The memorial consists of two walls that both stretch over 246 feet.  On it, are the names of more than 58,000 fallen soldiers, listed in chronological order by the date of death.  Built of polished black granite, it reflects each onlooker.

I’ve been there twice, and there was a respectful hush in the air.

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Nearby, and considered a vital part of the memorial, are two bronze statues.  The first is called the Three Soldiers.  Created by sculptor Frederick Hart, it is said to be a portrayal of unity.  Mr. Hart stated of it:

“I see the wall as a kind of ocean, a sea of sacrifice that is overwhelming and nearly incomprehensible in the sweep of names. I place these figures upon the shore of that sea, gazing upon it, standing vigil before it, reflecting the human face of it, the human heart.

The portrayal of the figures is consistent with history. They wear the uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war. And yet they are each alone. Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident. Their true heroism lies in these bonds of loyalty in the face of their awareness and their vulnerability.’

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The Vietnam Women’s Memorial commemorates the more than 265,000 who served in the Vietnam War.  Standing fifteen feet tall and weighing 2,000 pounds, it depicts three women attending to a wounded soldier, and reflects the unity required during the struggle of the war.

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In light of Memorial Day, I will spend much of this week reflecting on Washington, D.C. and the incredible attention it pays towards honoring those who have fallen.  It is definitely a place that encourages pause, reflection, and gratitude towards the brave men and women who sacrificed much, ensuring that the United States will always remain “The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave!”

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