10 September 2017 - Touring the Vietnam Memorial - Washington, DC

     The country of Vietnam and its war has always been a great curiosity to me because our children’s father served there the second year of our marriage and the first year of our oldest son’s life. Despite the entrance to the memorial reading “Vietnam War”, it’s now called the “American War”. 


     I joined a tour group led by a docent who was very well versed on the war and the people of that country.  Our group was small but there were 5 who’d been to Vietnam as tourists.

     This sculpture, depicting three female nurses caring for a fallen soldier, calling to mind the courage and sacrifice of all the women who served. Around the memorial are 8 trees—a living tribute to the 8 servicewomen killed in action while in Vietnam and whose names appear on The Wall. 265,000 women served during the war and since they were prevented from being in combat, they served in health care, communications, intelligence, and administrative positions. This memorial honors not only those women who served but is also for the families who lost loved ones. It provides a visual that their family members who were suffering and dying, were being provided comfort, care, and a human touch. 

     Our docent pointed out an obscure plaque embedded in the pavers that he said generally goes unnoticed. It memorializes those who died prematurely years after the war had ended making it clear that the toll the war had taken on those who served had not ended. Many of the deaths were related to their service because of Agent Orange and other carcinogenic factors. Others endured the consequences of PTSD. The inscription in the black granite reads, “In memory of the men and women who served in Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.” 

          The artist who created The Faces of Honor, said, "They wear it on their uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bond of love and sacrifice that is the name of men at war.... Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident."

     The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. There are more than 58,000 names inscribed on the black granite walls of those who gave their lives or remain missing. The idea for the park was conceived by Maya Lin, a 21 year old student of architecture. There were many designers whose submissions were considered so this was quite an honor for that young lady and what a jump-start for her career. This is one of the most moving monuments in the nation's capital. 


Bill and Laura Bender
Gangplank Marina
Washington, DC


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