The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a powerful tribute

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At the Vietnam War Memorial / Photo by Joe Newman

It’s hard to believe that some people protested against Maya Lin‘s design when the plans for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial were first unveiled. I was in high school when the memorial opened in 1982 and can remember the complaints of the people who were taken aback by everything from Lin’s (at the time) non-traditional, minimalist design to her Chinese-American heritage.

Today, I can’t imagine anyone could have created a more powerful and moving monument.

Lin’s concept for the memorial was to create a “wound” in the earth — symbolized by the 247-foot long L-shaped black marble wall that cuts into the ground and is inscribed with the 58,195 names of the service members who died during the Vietnam War.

When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was completed, it was certainly unlike any of the other memorials on the National Mall. There were no rising white marble columns, heroic statues or fountains — just a wall with all those names etched into it. Sure, there is the statue of the three soldiers on patrol that was added to appease those unhappy with Lin’s design, but that statue, in my opinion, neither adds or detracts from the impact of the wall, itself.

I posted something about the wall on my Facebook page and one of my friends wrote that he felt like weeping when he visited the wall, even though he (like myself) was only in grade school when the war was going on. And it’s true. It’s hard not to shed a tear when you stand in front of the wall and take it all in, especially when you see some of the pictures and notes that are left at the base of the wall.

These photos were taken after the Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony at the Wall.

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Many of the people who visit the wall leave photos, notes and keepsakes. The non-perishable items are collected and kept in storage.

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Volunteers and park staff at the wall have paper and pencils for people who want to take rubbings. They also have directories that help people find the location of a name on the wall.

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On Veterans Day there’s a wreath laying ceremony at the wall with dignitaries and a color guard.

All photos by Joe Newman. 

Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.