Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30, forty years ago.

The Vietnam Memorial rises from the depths as one of it's legs points towards the Washington Monument.
I COULDN'T let today, April 30, 2015, go by without mentioning the 40th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War Memorial is one of the most emotionally moving monuments in Washington D.C. Designed by Maya Lin, a 21-year old Chinese American student, the memorial design was initially criticized because critics thought it was making a negative political statement. Critics wanted something more heroic and patriotic.

The simplicity of the design belies the emotion welling up inside you as you descend one of the legs of the V-shaped memorial. You read the engraved names as you descend down the path -- one name, two, four, until you get to center of the V. There are so many names the columns of names of the dead are over your head. Then it hits you in the gut. The sheer number of names of those American servicemen who died in that war is overwhelming. Over 58,000 of them. I went to high school with some of them. Some are relatives.

You look up and amidst the engraved names, the polished black granite reflects an image of the visitor. Then you get a second jolt with the realization: All these soldiers, they died for you. 

No matter what your political beliefs are, you can't help but be moved.

Then visitors walk up the slope of the other leg of the V. Thousands of names, hundreds and finally a single name. You have come out of the wedge that divided our country;  away from the black granite with all those names; away from the depths. In the distance you can see the Washington Monument. You can see the horizon again

Located discreetly amongst the trees near the memorial was another monument. It was a more traditional statue dedicated to the women who served in that war. In that era, women were not allowed in combat units so most women served in support units, like the combat nurses depicted in the statue. At the base of the statue was a note that took my breath away.

"One of many."