Vietnam War Memorial - Powerful Granite



At the age of twenty one, a female undergraduate at Yale
University named Maya Lin submitted her design for the Vietnam
Memorial. Her idea for the memorial was extremely unique and
controversial. After long discussions by a panel, it was chosen
for construction. The design that she submitted was one that was
very different in comparison to other memorials, and it was one
that has a tendency to leave a lot of questions on the minds of
the visitors. On the face of the memorial there is a list of all
those who died or are missing in the order by which they were
lost. It could seem to some one who did not understand the
incident that the monument honors only those lost, but that is
incorrect. Maya Linıs design formed into the most unique
memorial structure of its kind, which honors all who served in
the Vietnam War (Colliers 23: 137).
The official name given to the monument was the Vietnam Veterans
memorial. In this name alone it is clear that it was not erected
for the sole purpose of honoring only those who were lost in the
conflict. The term KIA was the abbreviation used for those people
who were killed in action, and these people represent 47,000 of
the 58,000 names on the wall. The other 11,000 were soldiers who
died from crashes, snake bites, illnesses, and other non-combat
related deaths (Olson 227). There is no distinction made between
the two groups on the monument. The structure is a v-shaped
polished granite slab that unlike other monuments has no message
of honor or patriotism. All of those subjects are left to the
thoughts of the beholder. People often find therapy in locating
the name of a companion or a loved one. The Vietnam Veterans
Memorial is by far the most emotional moving war monument in
Washington, and that alone makes it very unique(Collierıs
138).
In comparison with other monuments, the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial is vastly different. A point of comparison could be the
Marine Corps War Memorial, otherwise known as the Iwo Jima
monument. This monument is a sculpture of three soldiers risking
their lives to keep the American flag flying. The structure has a
deep sense of understood patriotism and there is a great deal of
honor that is also associated with it. Unlike the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima monument is a tribute only to
the Marines who served in World War Two. The Vietnam Veterans
Memorial has no such message of honor and courage, but rather an
atmosphere that causes visitors to reflect on the conflict
(Colliers 138-139).
The only monument that is similar the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
is the memorial to Ulysses S. Grant. It is located at the foot of
the capital and has no clear cut meaning. There is no political
message that can be taken away from Grantıs memorial. It neither
glorifies war nor possesses an antiwar message, and there is no
moral lesson that can be taken away from this monument (Colliers
138). One of the great things about the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial is that it allows the public to form its own opinion of
the conflict with out forcing a political message. It is because
of this ambiguity that the monument is so unique.
Unlike other monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial can not be
seen from a distance. One must commit to see it, and then walk
down to it. This is just the opposite of other monuments such as
the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial which were
created to show the men on a higher God-like platform. Also, it
is not at all uncommon to find men and women alike weeping at the
base of the monument (Colliers 138-139) Cynics could argue and
say they morn only for their loved ones, and were not moved by
the power of the monument, but this is not always the case. The
Vietnam Veterans Memorial is an experience that affects thousands
of people daily, and changes the lives of almost as many. This is
a characteristic that no other war monument in the country seems
to posses.
The first inscription on the wall reads ³IN HONOR OF THE MEN AND
WOMEN