When we were in Washington, DC we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
If you are unfamiliar with this memorial, it was designed by an architect, Maya Lin, while she was a student at Yale. Her design won a competition that drew more than 14oo entrants. Apparently some people were upset because it isn’t the usual “man on a horse” type memorial statue. From a distance you can see it is large, but it is hard to feel it’s impact.
As you get closer, you begin to really understand. I have to say, in my experience, this memorial is the most powerful one I’ve ever been to. It is beautiful, stark and moving. It is just impossible to be unmoved by the more than 58,000 names of the killed in action listed in a monumental way for everyone to bear witness.
The difference with this memorial is that you can interact with it. It becomes very personal. You are allowed to get close, to touch it, to take a rubbing if you would like. There are parks volunteers who can help family members take rubbings of the name and look up information about their service and their death.
We passed by as this volunteer gave the rubbing to the woman and read the information he had to them. We had to leave quickly then because I was too upset by that point. All I can say is, he was just a kid.
I read on Wikipedia that the average age of the US military men and women killed in Vietnam was 23 years (not to mention all of the Vietnamese people killed). Scott’s Uncle enlisted and went to Vietnam, luckily he made it back. He was a kid too.
Last year I talked about my Dad’s service, and I ended with this:
“I certainly value all that he and all of the armed forces did (and continue to do) to champion freedom. I just wish humans were a whole lot smarter so that we didn’t keep fighting wars.”