(?Vietnam Veterans Memorial?)
This is a picture of the VVM at night.
Remembering the Fallen of Vietnam
????????? The 500-foot-long V-shaped Vietnam Veterans Memorial, better known as ?the Wall,? is becoming one of Washington, D.C.?s, most popular tourist attractions (Isserman 157). The engravers inscribed over 58,000 names of Vietnam casualties into the 140 panels of the lengthy, black granite walls of the Memorial (Isserman 158).
The Memorial is being built solely with the money collected from donations, even though it stands on federal land (Isserman 157). Almost nine-million dollars have been raised thus far through private contributions from corporations, foundations, unions, veterans and civic organizations, and another 300 thousand dollars is being raised by individual American Citizens (?Wall Information?).
????????? With the money to build the Memorial growing, a design has been chosen. The criteria for the design of the memorial is that it has to be reflective and contemplative in character, harmonize with its surroundings, it has to contain the names of those who died in the conflict or who are still missing, and make no political statement about the war (?Wall Information?). The judges of the wall include an expert on urban development and landscape Grady Clay, two landscape architects Hideo Sasaki and Garrett Eckbo, two structural architects Pietro Belluschi and Harry Weese, and three sculptors Richard H. Hunt, Constantino Nivola, and James Rosati.
The Winning Design
May 1, 1981, out of over fourteen hundred submitted designs, one has finally been chosen! Maya Ying Lin, an undergraduate at Yale University, is the creator of the winning design. Maya was born in Athens, Ohio, in 1959. She is a
native-born American citizen, even though her parents originated in China; they fled the country in 1949 when Mao-Tse-tung took control.
?For being the originator of the design, Maya will receive a commission to assist the Architect of Record in developing the design for construction. She also is receiving a spot on the wall for her name, located with the officers of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the architects, etc. (?Wall Information?).
Maya?s plan is not too popular with some of the veterans or the American citizens.? Several veterans view it as somewhat of an insult; to them it seems like a ?black gash of shame? (Isserman 157). But, as Maya?s vision of the wall becomes increasingly more apparent, more and more people are starting to see the true beauty in it. It is rapidly becoming a place of remembrance, a place of peace, a place of healing; a place, in her words, ?between the sunny world and the quiet dark world beyond? (Isserman 157).
The Three Servicemen
Besides the Wall, the memorial contains three sculptures created by Frederic Hart. ?The Three Servicemen?/?Three Fighting Men?/?Three Infantrymen? are not considered a war memorial, but a memorial to those who served in the war, both living and deceased (?Wall Information?). A flagpole should be added to the memorial by October 1982. The 21? x 18? flag will fly from a 60? pole alongside the three statues at the front entrance of the memorial site. The base of the staff will include the seals of the five military services on it: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. It also will have the inscription on it in a full circle:
??THIS FLAG REPRESENTS THE SERVICE RENDERED TO OUR COUNTRY BY THE VETERANS OF THE VIETNAM WAR. THE FLAG AFFIRMS THE PRINCIPLES OF FREEDOM FOR WHICH THEY FOUGHT AND THEIR PRIDE IN HAVING SERVED UNDER DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES? (?Wall Information?).
It will fly all day, every day, to honor the men and women that died in Vietnam. On special occasions, such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and POW/MIA Recognition Day, a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag will be flown underneath the American Flag at half-staff (?Wall Information?).
Honoring the Women of Vietnam
The Vietnam Women?s Memorial is a creation to commemorate the women who gave their lives in Vietnam. Glenna Goodacre is the designer of the Women?s Memorial, whose dedication should take place on November 11, 1993 (?Vietnam Women?s Memorial Foundation?).
The Bronze statue will exhibit three uniformed women and a wounded soldier. One of the women will be holding and comforting the wounded soldier, another kneeling behind them as if in thought or
prayer, and the final one will look up to the sky, either to call for a helicopter, a medic, or help from a higher power. Goodacre intends for the interpretation to be left open, so that one can get whatever he/she pleases out of it (?VVM: The Vietnam Women?s Memorial?).
(?VVM: Vietnam Women?s Memorial?)
This is the bronze statue that Glenna Goodacre created for the Vietnam Women?s Memorial.
A separate piece of the memorial is being created for the women because the women did not necessarily fight the same kind of war as the men did the whole time. The women who were on the battlefield did, but the women who served as nurses did not physically fight, but did perform emotionally and psychologically. The nurses could not show their emotions to the wounded soldiers they were trying to heal or mope over the corpses with which they had to deal. They had to have not only a strong stomach but also a strong mind and good control over their emotions (?VVM: Vietnam Women?s Memorial?).
Tokens of Love and Memory
????????? Everyday, people who have lost family and friends in the Vietnam War visit the monument and leave tokens at the foot of it. There are a wide variety of things that visitors leave ranging from lengthy letters and baby pictures, to cans of beer (Isserman 157).
????????? Some war veterans leave artifacts that they collected in Vietnam with letters explaining how these things were acquired. Richard Luttrell came face to face with a machine gun that had a North Vietnamese soldier behind it. He recalls that the soldier had plenty enough time to pull the trigger and take his life, but he did not. Luttrell make the reverse decision, he shot and killed the Vietnamese soldier. On the ground beside the corpse he found a picture of the deceased
???? (See ?Tokens?)
soldier and a little girl. Luttrell decided to keep the photograph, until a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1989 (?War and Remembrance: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial? At this visit he decided to leave the photograph with this letter:
For twenty-two years I have carried your picture in my wallet. I was only eighteen years old that day that we faced one another on that trail in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Why you didn't take my life, I'll never know. You stared at me for so long, armed with your AK-47, and yet you did not fire. Forgive me for taking your life, I was reacting just the way I was trained, to kill V.C. . . . So many times over the years I have stared at your picture and your daughter, I suspect. Each time my heart and guts would burn with the pain of guilt. I have two daughters myself now. . . . I perceive you as a brave soldier defending his homeland. Above all else, I can now respect the importance that life held for you. I suppose that is why I am able to be here today . . .. It is time for me to continue the life process and release my pain and guilt. Forgive me, Sir.? (?War and Remembrance: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial?)
????????? After leaving the photograph and the letter, Luttrell thought that he had left everything behind him. He was wrong; the picture made it into a book about bits and pieces collected from the wall. After looking at the picture again in the book; Luttrell decided to go on an operation to find the unknown girl in the photograph. He wrote letters to the Vietnam Ambassador in D.C and enclosed a copy of his letter and the photograph. Thirty-three years after Luttrell found the picture, a Vietnamese newspaper ran the article with the picture and the letter, and someone recognized the soldier (?War and Remembrance: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial?).
????????? Luttrell receives a letter from the girl in the photo, Lan, sometime later. To his surprise, it was not filled with hate, but compassion. It read:
"Dear Mr. Richard,
The child that you have taken care of, or through the picture, for over 30 years, she becomes adult now, and she had spent so much sufferance in her childhood by the missing of her father. I hope you will bring the joy and happiness to my family." (?War and Remembrance: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial?)
With the help of Dateline, Luttrell returned the photograph to Lan. It is the only photograph they she has of Nguyen Trong Ngoan, her long-lost father (?War and Remembrance: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial?).
Other items are left to reflect thoughts or feelings of the soldier?s family.? Some of the things that people leave are baby clothes of the dead soldiers, pictures, wedding rings, and letters written by the children of those who died. A man left this note for his father who died in Vietnam:
???? (See ?Tokens? page 5)
"I know you would like Lisa, you could not ask for a better wife. Dad, you have a granddaughter. Her name is Meghan and when she sees your picture, she says, 'That's my pa pa.'"
??????????? There are many things left each day at the Memorial, and it is the job of the Park Service Personnel to gather up and sort everything at the end of the day. About 10 to 20 items are left each day, and on holidays, like Veterans Day or Memorial Day, there are up to one thousand items left. Letters left at the Memorial can be pretty intimate and emotional, and the park personnel have found that it is easier on them if they just collect the tokens, not go through them (?War and Remembrance: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial?).
The Wall of Pride
????????? Families who lost loved ones in the Vietnam War visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial carrying a sense of pride on their shoulders. Their fathers, their brothers, their uncles gave their lives selflessly; to what some believe was a pointless war. Visitors of the Memorial cannot help but feel the wave of pride coming from the Vietnam Veterans as they visit the wall and write letters to fallen comrades. There are many, many poems and stories that people have written that have been collected from the tokens of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site. In one of them, Wm. Montgomery put his thoughts of the wall and what it represents into a short poem, titled ?The Wall of Pride? (?Literary Works for the Wall?).
?The Wall of Pride
As you walk along our wall
It may seem long and dark
And all the names that you see
Will give you a tear filled heart
But, all of your tears will soon fade away
And your heart will fill with pride
As you see our names standing side by side
Knowing that we all did our best
And we all are here for our final rest
You will touch the wall with your loving hands
And run your fingers across our names
To try and ease some of your pain
With a paper and pencil in your hands
You will make an etching of our name
And take us home in your heart
But only brothers and sisters
That stood with us side by side
That stand before the wall and share our pride
Will truly understand why we cannot leave
the wall.............The wall of pride?
??????????? Wm. Montgomery dedicated this poem to the Vietnam Veterans memorial (?Literary Works for the Wall?).
The VVM Memory Plaque
There is a plaque located within the Vietnam Veterans memorial that honors the service of
?(See ?Plaque? page 6)
the many men and women who lost their lives as a result of serving the army in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commemorative Plaque, also known as the Memory Plaque, was authorized in April 2000, to be designed and placed in the VVM. (?The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Memory Plaque?).
????????? Dedicated of the plaque took place in the Three Servicemen Statue plaza on November 10, 2004. The plaque is made out of the same black granite as the wall is made of, and it measures 24 x 36 inches. The inscription on the plaque reads:
?In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice" (?The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Memory Plaque?).
Visiting The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is open all day, every day a year except on Christmas, December 25. The busiest time for the VVM Is on holidays such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and POW/MIA Day. On these days many people come and leave things for their lost loved-ones.
The Memorial is located at Henry Bacon Drive & Constitution Ave. Everyone, whether or not they have lost a loved one, should visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at least once in their lifetime (?VVM: The Vietnam Women?s Memorial?).