Back in 2002, shortly after 9/11, I was in the USA visiting zoos including the one at Washington D.C.
I came across “The Wall”, a striking and stark war memorial to the lost servicemen and women of the Vietnam conflict.
The text reads:
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of the men and women of the armed foces of the United States who served in America’s longest war. By virtue of its design, the memorial inspires a contemplative experience and puts a human face on a divisive conflict. Veterans, their families and others find the memorail a place for reflection and healing.
“On the granite walls of the Memorial are more than 58,000 names of those listed as missing or killed in action. They are listed chronologically according to the date of death or loss.”
“As you approach “The Wall” on the path on your left you will pass the Three Servicemen statue. It reflects the shared experience of Vietnam veterans.”
“The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is located to the path on your right. More than 11,00 American women served in the military in Vietnam.”
The group of three servicemen and the groups of nurses and servicewomen with wounded represent many of the different racial or ethnic backgrounds of Americans serving in Vietnam. A look at the names on the wall suggests this too.
I think it important that the signage or interpretation also acknowledges the controversy and opposition at the time to this draft or conscript war, and possibly even by extension to the Vietnamese losses? “By virtue of its design, the memorial inspires a contemplative experience and puts a human face on a divisive conflict.”
Particularly poignant, like the poppy crosses and wreaths at WW1 and WW2 memorials in Britain and the Somme, are the fresh flowers, unit patches and other personal touches from friends, fellow vets and relatives.
Again as its interpretation suggests: “By virtue of its design, the memorial inspires a contemplative experience and puts a human face on a divisive conflict.”
That was certainly the quite and contemplative atmosphere when I was there (6 months after 9/11).
A website about the Wall can be found at http://thewall-usa.com
and at http://www.vvmf.org/memorial
Photographs by Mark Norris, scanned from 35mm film / photo prints.
Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo