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A trip to Washington, DC isn’t complete until you walk the National Mall. The National Mall is the area between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol with the Washington Monument nearly in the center. It features a large green space with walking trails, commemorative memorials, monuments and statues that honor past presidents, public figures, and military. One of the most impressive of these memorials is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
You will find the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Constitution Gardens, just a short walk from Lincoln Memorial. This memorial spans 2 acres and honors the 2.7 Million Americans who served in the Vietnam War. It is divided into three sections, the Memorial Wall, the Three Soldiers Statue and the Vietnam Woman’s Memorial Statue.
The Memorial Wall
In 1980 there was a design competition to create a Vietnam Veterans memorial. From the nearly 1400 designs, the winner was a design by Maya Lin. The concept she created was a set of walls sandblasted with the names of those who lost their lives while serving in the Vietnam War. While this memorial may seem simplistic, its design is very symbolic.
You will notice immediately that the Memorial features 2 walls that seem to converge together at an apex. Each side of the wall seems to slide into the ground at the ends. Lin’s conception was to create a wound in the earth to symbolize the gravity of the loss of the soldiers. The surrounding grass symbolises how the world heals, but the indention remains (like a scar) to remind us of the past. Also, notice how one side of the wall points to the Lincoln Memorial while the other points to the Washington Monument.
On these Granite walls are a list of the names of names of servicemen classified as KIA (Killed in Action) or MIA (Missing in Action). Their names are sandblasted into the stone as a way for the world to remember them and what they sacrificed. While you might expect the names of those who gave their lives to be listed alphabetically, this memorial wall features them in chronological order. The names begin in the end of east wall with those killed in 1959 and goes through to the date of May 25, 1968 at the apex where the two walls meet. Then from the end of the west wall it begins May 25, 1968 and ends at the apex in 1975.
If you are related to or know someone who lost their life during the Vietnam War, I suggest you take time to look for their name. You can even bring a piece of paper and pencil (or crayon) to do an etching of their name on the wall.
You may find it difficult to find the name of a specific serviceman since they are not listed alphabetically. Luckily, there are directories containing all of the names (and their location) on nearby podiums. You can also find help at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial information center.
Three Soldiers Statue
Just a short distance from the right side of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall is the bronze Three Solider Statue by Frederick Hart. This statue was placed after the Wall, but somehow fits into the monument seamlessly. You will notice that the three men face the wall and seem to be contemplative in thought.
Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial
Designed in 1993 by Glenda Goodacre, this memorial depicts the women who served in the war (often as nurses). The statue features three uniformed women coming to the aid of a soldier.
The National Mall in Washington, DC is a great place to learn about the history of the United States. It is also a good opportunity to spend time reflecting on the sacrifice that the men & women of this country made in order for Americans to enjoy freedom.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day. Because the area consists of a good deal of walking in many outdoor locations, you will want to makes sure you dress appropriate for the weather and wear comfortable shoes.
Have you been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC?