History and Culture
Visit the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.
To my great relief, I didn't have to fight in the Vietnam War. I didn't even know anyone personally who had been there - much less anyone who had died in the war. So when I visited Washington D.C., and finally found my way to the Vietnam War Memorial - called simply the Vietnam Wall - I didn't think it would affect me on an emotional level.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the memorial, its design is simplicity itself; two walls of black granite, set in a wide V-shape - the ends start at ground level and gradually rise to a height of about ten feet as they meet in the middle. Carved into the granite, are the names of all the Americans who died in the war.
As I walked slowly along the wall, looking at the many thousands of names, and seeing other visitors searching for specific names, perhaps of long lost friends or family members, I felt a mix of emotions wash over me that really took me by surprise. I had already visited the WWII Memorial and it didn't affect me in the same way at all.
It's interesting to think back on the controversy that surrounded the selection of that design for the Vietnam Memorial - and to realize that it almost didn't get built. I can't imagine a more fitting memorial - or one that would have such an impact on those who take the time to pay it a visit.