On March 26, 1982, ground was formally broken for the Vietnam War Memorial – known to many of us as just “The Wall.” The Memorial Wall is made up of two black granite walls 246 feet 9 inches long, designed by Maya Ying Lin. The walls are sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them. At the high point where they meet, the Wall is a little over 10 feet high. The walls taper from the apex to a height of eight inches at their extremities. Granite for the wall came from Bangalore, India and was deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality. All cutting and fabrication was done in Barre, Vermont.
One wall points toward the Washington Monument and the other in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial. Each wall has 72 panels, 70 listing names (numbered 1E through 70E and 70W through 1W) and 2 very small blank panels at the extremities. A pathway runs along the base of the Wall, where visitors walk, read the names, make a pencil rubbing of a particular name, or pray. Some people leave sentimental items there for their deceased loved ones, which are stored at the Museum and Archeological Regional Storage Facility.
The Three Soldiers (also known as The Three Servicemen) is a bronze statue on the Washington, DC National Mall commemorating the Vietnam War. The grouping consists of three young men, armed and dressed appropriately for the Vietnam War era, purposely identifiable as Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic. It was designed to complement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component. The statue was unveiled on Veterans Day, 1984.
The Wall serves as a moving tribute to those 58, 479 brothers and sisters who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. But for those who cannot make the trip to Washington, D.C., a smaller version of the Wall was created. The Moving Wall, also called the Traveling Wall, is one-half the size of the original wall and can be transported to cities and towns across the United States. Since its first appearance in 1984, the Moving Wall has visited more than 1,000 cities and towns.
The memories of the Vietnam War, as with all wars, will never leave us. The Wall provides a sense of completeness after so many years of bitter debate and discussion about the Vietnam War. I visited the Moving Wall in 2001 when it was set up at Highland Park Cemetary. And last September, after all the years of longing and hoping for a chance to see the original Wall, I made my first trip to Washington, D.C. I walked back and forth along the Wall, watching as others kneeled, cried, and gently touched the Wall. Conversations were hushed and words were softly spoken. The peace and calm I felt as I walked along the Wall instilled in me a sense of being home. The Wall had been on my mind and in my heart for all those years, and now I was there paying tribute to all those who had sacrificed their lives.
I touched the Wall for my first time last September, thinking back to classmates from South Whitley who had died. And of those who came home maimed, scarred, and disfigured, both physically and emotionally. I touched the Wall again and again as I walked along. And, when I finally walked away, I knew I would be back to touch the Wall again and again and again until I can no longer make the journey.