In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, I watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite after supper. Cronkite would introduce stories and maps of this area half way around the world called Southeast Asia where the Vietnam War was taking place. He would always include the daily numbers of how many United States soldiers had been killed or wounded in Vietnam for the last day and for the entire conflict. To me, that is what the Vietnam War was…numbers.
I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C. for the first time last week. I walked the entire length of the Wall and saw thousands of names engraved into the gabbro stone. The numbers now had names and each name on the Wall meant a soldier had died in Vietnam.
Each name a son or daughter, friend or spouse, father or mother and all loved by someone. All missed a life beyond their military service. Panel after panel are filled amounting to over 58,000 names. The Vietnam War will never be just numbers to me again.
Most people, as I was, are not aware there are two other memorial statues which make up the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. When the Wall was first proposed by designer Maya Lin it was a bit controversial as many wanted a sculpture of soldiers. To satisfy the critics to the Wall, the third place design from the original competition by Fredrick Hart was chosen called The Three Soldiers.
In 1993, another statue was added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in honor of the women who were a part of the conflict. The Women’s Vietnam Memorial statue was designed by Glenna Goodacre.