On this day…
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a national memorial in Washington, D.C., was established on November 13, 1982. It pays tribute to the U.S. service members who fought in the Vietnam War, those who lost their lives in service, and service members who were Missing In Action during the War.
The memorial consists of three separate parts: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the Three Soldiers Statue, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. The Wall, the most well-known of the memorials, is a black granite wall inscribed with the names of 58,209 Americans that were killed or MIA in the Vietnam War. The names are listed in chronological order of when the casualty occurred. However, there is also an alphabetic directory to make finding names easier. The Memorial Wall was designed by Maya Lin and is made of two walls 246 feet 9 inches long. One wall points towards the Washington Monument, and the other towards the Lincoln Memorial. The stone chosen for the wall was specifically chose because of its reflective property, as a visitor can see their own reflection while simultaneously viewing the names of those honored by the memorial.
Near the wall is a life-size bronze statue of three young servicemen. The three men appear to be looking at the wall in tribute to their fallen servicemen. Also nearby is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a sculpture of two women tending to a wounded male soldier.
Visitors will often times leave flowers, photos, letters, and medals in front of the memorials. Historically, the National Park Service has collected these tributes and many times the sentimental items are displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. A story claims that this custom began during the construction of the memorial when a Vietnam veteran threw the Purple Heart his brother received into the concrete of the foundation.