Thursday, Jul 19, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Sublime memorial

Anniversaries are more than re­mind­ers of pass­ing years. They of­fer an op­por­tu­nity to as­sess how Amer­i­cans’ at­ti­tudes have changed. The 30th an­ni­ver­sary of the Vi­et­nam Veter­ans Me­mo­rial in Wash­ing­ton is an ex­am­ple.

The me­mo­rial was ded­i­cated on the Wash­ing­ton Mall on Nov. 13, 1982, when feel­ings about the Vi­et­nam war were fresh in mem­ory and still raw. Un­like their fathers and grand­fathers, the vet­er­ans of this un­pop­u­lar war felt shunned.

In the place of tri­um­phant pa­rades and he­roes’ wel­comes, they came back to a ci­vil­ian world that was at best in­dif­fer­ent to their ser­vice, and some­times hos­tile to it. For many Vi­et­nam vet­er­ans, those feel­ings have changed over the years.

One rea­son for that is the rec­og­ni­tion pro­vided by one of the most mov­ing mon­u­ments in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. But the Vi­et­nam Veter­ans Me­mo­rial was not at first ac­cepted as the sub­lime ar­chi­tec­tural achieve­ment it is to­day.

On the con­trary, when the de­sign of the sub­ter­ra­nean wall of names was an­nounced, it seemed to some like an­other slight to Vi­et­nam vet­er­ans. Other wars were com­mem­o­rated with tra­di­tional stat­u­ary, but once again the Vi­et­nam vets were to be treated dif­fer­ently.

The mod­ern­is­tic de­sign by a 21-year-old Yale Univer­sity ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent, Maya Lin, was called, among other things, “a de­grad­ing ditch” and a “black gash of shame.” Be­cause of the bit­ter con­tro­versy, Ms. Lin’s plan be­came re­al­ity only through a com­pro­mise: Clas­sic touches were added to the pe­riph­ery of the site — a bronze statue called “The Three Soldiers” and a flag­pole.

But it is the wall that has most moved the feel­ings of vet­er­ans and other vis­i­tors. It holds great emo­tional power and has be­come a place of heal­ing. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans visit each year.

The cover story of the new is­sue of the Veter­ans of For­eign Wars mag­a­zine is about the wall and the pow­er­ful re­ac­tions it in­spires in vet­er­ans, yet the con­tro­versy is barely men­tioned. The story calls the me­mo­rial “a hal­lowed place.”

A re­tired Marine is quoted as say­ing: “The wall was the best thing that ever hap­pened to us. The Vi­et­nam Veter­ans Me­mo­rial Fund should get a medal for giv­ing us back our pride.”

Some 58,282 names are in­scribed on the wall. The me­mo­rial cap­tures the no­bil­ity and sor­row of their sac­ri­fice — just as the young ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent was in­spired to imag­ine 30 years ago.

Click to comment

Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem?

Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet.

Copyright © 2018 Toledo Blade

To Top

Fetching stories…