The day I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was somber, but also thrilling. I knew I was standing in the company of heroes. Men who loved their country and had laid down their lives for their brothers. Candles snuffed out just as they burnt brightest. Dreams unfulfilled, generations unborn, families left with grief and pride.
On the day I visited only one memorial sat at the base of the wall, a promise from a loving family to always hold him close. His name was Harry Richard Italiano. He was killed in Quang Ngai, Vietnam by small arms fire on June 3, 1969, the day after his 21st birthday.
I spent some time thinking of Harry. I thought I should find out what I could about him and honor him and remember him.
I vowed to do those things, and I will. It's the least I can do after what he did for me and for his country.
Harry is not just Harry. He is his 58,000+ brothers, whose names are also etched on that Wall with his. He is every American who has taken up arms throughout our time as a nation to give us liberty, to keep us free.
I will not forget Harry. Ever. I hope YOU will not either.
The Vietnam Women's Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1993 near the Wall of names and the statue of the three serviceman at the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The original memorial (which I did not take a photo of) is a big black wall with the names of those who died. An additional sculpture of three men (photo two) was added after the wall was criticized as like a tombstone. The Vietnam Women's Memorial was added after that because people did not feel that the women's service had been properly appreciated.
The site is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for all who wish to visit. National Park Service Rangers and VVMF volunteers are stationed at the Memorial from 8:00a.m – 11:45p.m. A NPS information kiosk is located in between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. The kiosk is open during these hours to assist visitors in location names on the Memorial.
Constitution Gardens is part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks bounded on the west by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This park area contains a large lake, the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and several walkways and park benches. The Gardens were dedicated in May of 1976 as an American Revolution Bicentennial tribute. On July 2, 1984, the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence was dedicated on the small island in the lake.
Since this was a war my dad fought in, it's always held more meaning to me. I first got to visit it a few years after it opened.
There are several features to see within the memorial. Perhaps the most readily known feature is the memorial wall - listing all those MIA or KIA in Vietnam at the time it was built. There are several books around the memorial so that if you have a name you wish to look up, you can find its location.
There is a statue of three soldiers across from the wall who appear to be solemnly looking at the wall. These were added to appease those who were shocked at the stark design of the memorial wall.
A few years later, they also added another statue to honor women in Vietnam - it depicts three uniformed women (Hope, Faith, and Charity) tending to a wounded soldier.
On Veterans Day 1982 a new Memorial was dedicated on the National Mall to honor the service of the men and women who fought in the Vietnam War. Though it is easily one of the most popular attractions for visitors to this city, it is, more importantly, a place of healing. Why?
While Americans were being sent off to fight in Vietnam our country was deeply divided. Divided by legitimate differences of opinion as to our role in the war, of why we were there in the first place. It was a time of great turmoil in the world, and our country had just gone through a trying time of during the civil rights struggle of the 1960's. In short, it was not a popular war, if there can even be such thing as a popular war.
Regardless of the policy issues, the soldiers who went to Vietnam usually did not receive parades in their honor when they came home, unlike their fathers who had fought in World War II.
The Wall honors the service of our soldiers in Vietnam and has helped to heal the wounds of the war. Most importantly, it symbolically gives a "welcome home" to those who came home and a respectful memorial to those who did not come home alive.
It is a deeply moving place...a place you will witness powerful emotion, sadness and a celebration of life. I urge all visitors to treat this place and the people there with the respect it deserves.
Veterans Day 2011
There's something about the Vietnam war that makes it resonate more than any other. On factor is recency. But perhaps more important was that so many people died - and it was all televised. Before that wars were black and white. They were shown in movie theaters long after the action had taken place. Sometimes they were just reenacted. Nobody really knew what they were like... until Vietnam. The shock rings through to the present day and draws around five million visitors a year.
The memorial lists the name of each and every soldier who died in the war. It's a poignant reminder of the ordinary sacrifice that so many gave for an ultimately pointless war. The first name I saw was John H. Anderson, Jr. His name stood alone on a single line etched into the gabbro wall. I researched his name later: Born and raised in Wellsville, Pennsylvania, a village of a few hundred people, he was sent straight to Vietnam and died on an anonymously numbered hill just after his twentieth birthday.
The stones of the memorial have been carefully selected and sandblasted to create a reflective sheen, which show the visitor when viewing the names - bring past and present together. The memorial is shaped like the insignia worn by privates in the army like John H. Anderson, Jr. The left side points to the Lincoln Memorial, and the right side to the Washington Monument.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, atempting to soften painful memories, joins three elements: the Three Servicemen Statue and Flagpole, the Vietnam Women's Memorial and the Wall of names.
This one is the center of attention, for people that easily forgets the other elements. Almost hidden in the lawn, a long black wall registers the name of the 58.249 victims in Vietnam war.
As you descend to the bottom, you start feeling smashed by those names that silently pass at your side, hoping for a release at the end of the long corridor. But no. There, at the end, only a crown of flowers reminds you that the nightmare was real. And as you emerge to the light, in your way back out, you can't stop yourself from thinking: Why? Whose responsibility?
When you come to Washington DC, a large portion of your time will likely be taken up with visiting the National Mall, with its Monuments and Memorials. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is quite stirring - a long, black wall, into which the names of the Vietnam war dead are etched in chronological order, according to the date of casualty, and then alphabetized within that date, as well as insignia for those who have been confirmed dead (a diamond), and those who are missing and presumed dead (a cross). It is heart-wrenching to watch people come up to the wall, and touch the name of a beloved father, brother, husband, or son.
Viet Nam was a controversial issue in this country. As war raged on the country was split in opinion about the morality of this fight.
Soldiers who survived did not find a warrior's welcome when they came home and this memorial was built to honor those brave men and women who gave their lives in this campaign.
This simple monument brings tears to it's visitors as they search for the name of loved ones lost.
I had visited this marvellous memorial on another occasion but unfortunatly my visit was cut short..and now having returned I wanted to pursue what I couldn't do on my last visit and that was to find the name among the many thousands on the wall of a great friend that was killed at Firebase Khe Sahn in 1968 while serving with a maintenace battalion there
Although this Memorial was surrounded by contaversy when first designed and built ..it certainly has turned out to be a magnificent structure featuring the names of so many young Americans that didnt return home. just so many people here always can always be seen making a pilgrimage to the wall usually to trace the name of a lost family member or friend onto a peice of paper or just to touch the name . so sad...
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial serves as a testament to the sacrifice of American military personnel during one of this nation's least popular wars. If you are able save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the place they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.
Maj Michael Davis O'Donell
Listed KIA 1978
Vietnam Veterans Memorial is intended to remember the American Military who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War. Featured in the memorial is the Wall of names, the Three Servicemen Statue and Flagpole.
Comprising two elements, The Wall and the Three Servicemen Statue, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a place of quiet and reflection - not only of the war which resulted in the loss of so many lives but in the The Wall section itself as the surrounding landscape reflects beautifully in the high sheen of the wall and allows for its own reflection.
The designer, Maya Lin, kept the design simple to "allow everyone to respond and remember".
Books located near The Wall list, alphabetically, the names which, on The Wall, appear in the chronological order of the loss of life.
In 2010, a further six names were added to The Wall whilst some designation changes were made against names which were previously marked with a cross to designate MIA (Missing in Action) to a diamond which confirms the death in action.
Later in 2010, restorations were made to the Three Servicemen Statue.
To honor those American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War, a black wall with thousands of names on it was created. Names of each person who died. The wall is divided into east and west panels, each identified by a number and lettering. In all there are 140 of them.
Each wall is nearly 250 feet wide reaching as high as ten feet. Currently there are 58,249 names on it, the very last name is a soldier by the name of Jessie Alba. There is no political message associated with this expression of art. It's just a sombering way of indicating the large number of Americans who lost their lives serving the country.
Another way that the number of casualties really affected me was the books that listed, by alphabetical order the dead. It is the size of a telephone book. Just imagine a telephone book in your city with thousands of living people's names on it. Then step back and compare that to this "phone book" of the dead. It really hit me hard when I put it in that perspective.
I really can't put a reason on it directly but all the times I've been to this memorial it has had quite the effect on me. First time was with my friends father who is a Vietnam Vet. The next time the other day two days before Christmas. My last time here was with Liz whose Dad is a Vietnam Vet. Bob's close friend Roy served two tours in Vietnam and didn't come back "right". He definitely is "off" but I can't say I blame him after all he saw and did. The people you meet there, the pictures and letters left of those that read like they feel quilty for being alive. It all just really makes you think.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is made up of three parts. First is the Wall, with the names of all the fallen servicemen and women who gave their lives. There is also a tribute the Women who served and another to the men who served.
All are beautifully done and the crowds passing through were definitely moved by the sights.
What a wonderful and touching memorial to our women who were strictly volunteers during this conflict. Who surfered too and many died while serving and healing our wounded soliders. This 2,000 pound statue broze by Sante Fe based sculptured G.Goodacre.
Open 24 hours
Park Ranger on site 8am