Anniversary: Vietnam Veterans Memorial turns 30

Photo courtesy of FlickrTUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13: America’s reflection on the service and sacrifices of our veterans extends an extra day this year as the nation marks the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Vietnam War was a turningpoint in America’s response to our nation’s conflicts. This was our first “television war,” bringing the brutal conflict from Asian jungles to America’s living rooms each night at dinner time. Meanwhile, our huge and hopeful Baby Boom generation was heading into adulthood and facing an unpopular mandatory draft. The result on the homefront was a turbulent and often explosive clash over the war effort. Upon return home, many Vietnam Vets were met with aversion instead of honor; post-traumatic stress soared. As tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in that tragic conflict—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was erected. (Check out the official site here.) As of May 2011, the Wall bore the names of 58,272 Vietnam Vets.

A somber march of thousands of Vietnam Vets paved the way to the Memorial wall on Nov. 13, 1982, visually announcing its public dedication. All laid eyes on a two reflective walls, each 246 feet long: the stone for the wall, hand-selected in India, was chosen to aesthetically represent the past and present together when a visitor sees his reflection and the etched names in the same glance. The current complex consists of three parts: the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. (Wikipedia has details.) Approximately 3 million visitors view the Wall each year, and in 2007, it was ranked 10th on a “List of America’s Favorite Architecture.”


Looking for someone? Even if you can’t make it to D.C., the Virtual Wall now makes it possible to search for a name from any computer—just fill in search boxes at the Virtual Wall site. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is also in search of photos of the 58,272 men and women on The Wall. If you have a photo of someone, contribute it to the Education Center at the Wall.

When Vietnam Vet John Devitt attended the 1982 Memorial dedication, he wanted others to experience the same healing he did—even if they couldn’t make it to Washington, D.C. He began brainstorming a “Traveling Wall,” and construction began with the use of his personal financing. Two years later, the three-fifths replica of the Wall was first displayed in Texas. Today, the exhibit visits approximately 20 cities each year and has an impressive waiting list; state troopers and citizens on motorcycles accompany the replica Wall as it travels cross-country. The Healing Wall left Portland, Oregon, yesterday. (Read the story in the Portland Observer.)

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