Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam Veterans Memorial’

AVDFLM06

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

With Memorial Day coming up next week, I decided for this bike ride to go to one of the city’s newest memorials, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Located just a block off the National Mall at 150 Washington Avenue (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the memorial opened just this past September after a more than a dozen years in the making.

The origins of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial date back to a chance meeting in 1995 at another D.C. memorial. A woman named Lois Pope, widow of National Enquirer owner Generoso Pope Jr., met a disabled American veteran at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Realizing that there was not a memorial to honor disabled veterans, she attempted to call the office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown to plead for one. Unable to get through, she called again every day for six months until Brown’s secretary finally put her call through.  The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds for memorials, but Secretary Brown agreed to support legislation to establish memorial.

On October 23, 2000, Congress adopted legislation authorizing the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial Foundation, whose purpose was to design, raise funds for, and construct a memorial.  Almost a decade later the fundraising goal was reached. The groundbreaking for the memorial occurred on November 10, 2010.  And on October 5, 2014, President Barack Obama officially dedicated the memorial.

The Memorial, located on a 1.72-acre parcel of Federally-owned land, consists of five distinct yet interconnected elements. The first element and centerpiece of the Memorial’s design is a 30 inches-tall black granite fountain in the shape of a five-pointed star, with a ceremonial eternal flame rising out of the water in the middle of the fountain. Extending south and southeast from the star-shaped fountain is the Memorial’s second element, a reflecting pool which, together with the fountain, are designed to reflect the nearby U.S. Capitol building. The third element is known as the “Wall of Gratitude”, and consists of two long, white granite walls which extend along the western edge of the site, and are inscribed with quotations from General George Washington and General Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the name of the memorial. The fourth element is the “Voices of Veterans” area, which forms the southern portion of the site and consists of three staggered glass walls made up of 49 panels. On the interior sheets of glass are inscribed photo-realistic images of veterans and quotations from veterans describing their devotion to duty, what it was like to be wounded, and how they came to terms with their disability. Four bronze panels, with silhouettes of soldiers cut from their center, stand behind some of the glass panels. The final element of the memorial consists of a grove of memorial trees. The “Voices of Veterans” element is set among the trees of the northern part of this grove.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial serves as a permanent national public tribute to veterans of the armed forces of the United States who were permanently disabled during the course of their national service.  This includes over four million veterans currently living with a disability, as well as countless others who subsequently passed away.  It is the only national memorial to not defined by service branch, military unit or specific conflict, but to simply honor those who veterans seriously injured in the line of duty as heroes.

Although the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is for remembering military personnel who died while serving, it is an opportune time to also remember those who served and survived, but continue to pay a price for that service, as well as all military veterans.  For as one of the inscriptions on the memorial reads, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”

AVDFLM07     AVDFLM08     AVDFLM05

AVDFLM03     AVDFLM04

AVDFLM12     AVDFLM11     AVDFLM10     AVDFLM09
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Advertisements
The Vietnam Women's Memorial

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial

On this bike ride I stopped by the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which is one of the three main components of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex; the other two being the The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and The Three Soldiers Statue. It is located at 5 Henry Bacon Drive (MAP) in northwest D.C., in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall, just northeast of The Lincoln Memorial.

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War, most of whom were nurses.  In all, over 265,000 women served in the U.S. armed forces, with nearly 10,000 women in uniform actually served in-country during the Vietnam War. The Memorial is intended to serve as a reminder of the importance of women in the conflict.

The memorial statue depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier, creating a true sculpture in the round composition that is interesting from all angles. One of the nurses is shown as she serves as the life support for a wounded soldier lying across her lap. The standing woman looks up, in search of a med-i-vac helicopter or, perhaps, in search of help from God.  The fourth figure is a kneeling figure which the sculpture has called “the heart and soul” of the piece because so many vets see themselves in her as “she stares at any empty helmet, her posture reflecting her despair, frustrations, and all the horrors of war.”

The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was designed by Glenna Maxey Goodacre and dedicated in November of 1993, nine years after the Three Soldiers Statue was added to the Memorial Wall, which had been dedicated two years earlier.  This gives it the distinction of being a first in our nation’s capitol, and in our nation.  Unveiled and dedicated four years prior to the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial was the first memorial in American history to honor women’s patriotic service.

VietnamWall03

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

On this day in 1957, U.S. military personnel suffered their first casualties of the Vietnam War when 13 Americans were wounded in three terrorist bombings of Military Assistance Advisory Group and U.S. Information Service installations in Saigon. The rising tide of guerrilla activity in South Vietnam reached an estimated 30 terrorist incidents by the end of the year and at least 75 local officials were assassinated or kidnapped in the last quarter of 1957. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning for the U.S. By the end of the war in 1975, estimates for the total U.S. casualties during the Vietnam War are 58,286 killed in action or non-combat deaths (including the missing and deaths in captivity), 153,303 wounded in action, and 1,645 missing in action.

In addition to U.S. casualties, estimates place the number of deaths for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Viet Cong at 1.1 million, while 220,357 were killed in action from the Republic of Vietnam. It is also estimated that 4,407 from the Republic of Korea, 487 from Australia. 351 from Thailand, 37 New Zealanders, and 30,000 Laotian Meo/Hmong were killed.  Additionally, estimates place the number of civilian deaths between 195,000-430,000 in South Vietnam, and 50,000-65,000 in North Vietnam.

In remembrance of the events of this day and in honor of those who served and sacrificed, on this lunchtime bike ride I rode to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Located in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall, just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial (MAP), the Memorial Wall is the best-known part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex, which also includes The Three Soldiers Statue and The Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

The Memorial Wall is comprised of two gabbro walls which total 246 feet 9 inches in length. The walls are sunk into the ground, with the earth behind them.  At the apex where they meet which is the highest point, they are 10.1 feet high. They taper to a height of only 8 inches at either end. One wall points toward The Washington Monument, the other in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial, and they meet in the middle. Each wall has 72 inscribed panels, with the two very small blank panels at the extremities remaining blank.

Inscribed on the panels are the names of servicemen who were either confirmed to be killed in action or remained classified as missing in action when the walls were constructed. The 58,272 names, which includes 8 women, are listed in chronological order. The names include approximately 1,200 who are listed as missing. The names of the missing are denoted with a cross. If they return alive, although this has thus far never occurred, the cross would be circumscribed by a circle. If their death is confirmed, a diamond will be superimposed over the cross.

The wall is made from highly reflective stone so that when a visitor looks upon it, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names. This is meant to symbolically bring the past and present together. However, if you are unable to experience and see the Wall in person, there is a half size replica called The Moving Wall, which periodically visit hundreds of small towns and cities throughout the country from April through November, spending five or six days at each site. Veterans groups have subsequently created additional traveling replicas, which include The Traveling Wall created by the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall by Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard, Inc, and The Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall by Dignity Memorial. Fixed replicas have also been built in Wildwood, New Jersey and Winfield, Kansas.

There are also other resources and virtual versions of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that can be found online, including The Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial , The Wall of Faces  and The Wall – USA.  These sites are intended to “bring the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to your home to help remember the sacrifices of the fallen and their families.” 

So take a few minutes to visit D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, or one of the travelling or virtual walls, and remember the 58,272 individuals who are honored, including the ten different people on the wall who were killed on this day during the war.  They are John Dominick Arquillo (age 21), William Olen Austin (19), John Thomas Baker (20), Alexander Beard (28), John David Belles (20), Guy Lester Bellew (35), Gary Lee Binder (20), Murray Lyman Borden (25), Robert White Boyd (23), and John Wesley Brooks (19).

VietnamWall01a     VietnamWall02a     VietnamWall01a

VietnamWall01     VietnamWall01b     VietnamWall01c
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

The Three Soldiers

The Three Soldiers


The Three Soldiers, also known as The Three Servicemen, is a bronze sculpture created by Frederick Hart.  It is located in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall near The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall (MAP).  Along with the Memorial Wall and The Vietnam Women’s Memorial, The Three Soldiers statue is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial complex.  Created to complement and bring a more traditional component to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the soldiers depicted by the statue appear to be looking at the Memorial Wall containing the names of more than 58,000 of their fallen and missing comrades.  Dedicated in 1984, it was added as part of the Memorial two years after completion of the Wall.  But like most things in D.C., the installation of statue was not without disagreement and controversy.    

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed by Maya Lin, who won a national competition held to select a design for the memorial.  However, despite the selection of Lin’s design and its many supporters, her design also met with many negative reactions.  Several Congressmen complained, and Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt refused to issue a building permit so that construction of the Memorial could begin.  Also, Vietnam veterans were divided in their opinions about the memorial’s design, much like the country itself was during the war.

The Three Soldiers sculpture was commissioned to stand beside the wall in as a compromise, an attempt to appease those who wanted a more traditional memorial.  The designer of the Memorial Wall, Maya Lin, was so displeased with the addition to her design, that even after the decision was made to place the statue a distance away from the Wall so as to minimize the impact on her design, she still refused to attend the dedication of the sculpture when it was unveiled on Veterans Day in 1984.

Controversy continued when it was discovered that Hart, who had placed third in the original memorial design competition, was paid four times as much for The Three Soldiers statue as Maya Lin had received for the prize-winning design of the Memorial Wall.

Today, most visitors to the memorial complex are unaware of the controversy that went into it.  Along with the Memorial Wall, the sculpture now serves as a symbol of our nation’s honor and recognition of those who served and sacrificed during the Vietnam War.

Constitution Gardens

Constitution Gardens

Mostly unknown and overlooked by the millions of tourists visiting the many other nearby memorials on the National Mall, Constitution Gardens occupies 50 prime acres of landscaped grounds approximately halfway between The Washington Monument and The Lincoln Memorial, and includes a lake with an island, winding sidewalks and pathways lined with benches,  and approximately 5,000 oak, maple, dogwood, elm and crabapple trees.  Located to the west of 17th Street and south of Constitution Avenue in northwest D.C. (MAP), the gardens are bordered on the west by The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and on the south by The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.  But despite its central location on the National Mall, it is a quiet haven in the heart of the bustling capital city.  

The land that became Constitution Gardens was originally submerged beneath the Potomac River, but was dredged at the beginning of the 20th century by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The land then became the location for the Navy’s main and munitions buildings until 1970 when President Richard Nixon, who had once who had served in the offices as a navy officer, ordered his former workplace to be torn down to make way for a park to be established on the land.  In 1976, Constitution Gardens was finally dedicated as part of America’s Bicentennial celebration as a “living legacy tribute.”  It has been a separate park unit in the National Park Service since 1982.

In contrast to its normally peaceful setting, Constitution Gardens became the site of a bizarre standoff between Federal law enforcement officers and a disgruntled tobacco farmer named Dwight Watson during two days in mid-March back in 2003.  Watson, a tobacco farmer from North Carolina, blamed Federal tobacco policies and the cutting of tobacco subsidies for the increasing difficulty he was experiencing in making a living on his rural tobacco farm, which had been in his family for five generations.  Wearing a military helmet and displaying an upside down American flag, the disgruntled farmer travelled to D.C. and drove his tractor into the center of the lake, claiming that he had explosives.  This prompted the evacuation of the area and holding a SWAT team composed of approximately 200 FBI Agents and Park Police officers at bay for 48 hours before he surrendered.  Watson was eventually convicted of destroying federal property for digging up part of the island and damaging a retaining wall during the standoff, but no other monuments or memorials were harmed.

The more often than not tranquil Constitution Gardens becomes uncharacteristically full of activity each year when it is the site of an annual naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens hosted by the National Park Service.  But on the day I rode there, it was just as I hoped it would be – virtually deserted, except for a family of geese and a few mallard ducks.

ConstitutionGardens009     ConstitutionGardens007     ConstitutionGardens003

ConstitutionGardens006     ConstitutionGardens002     ConstitutionGardens005

ConstitutionGardens05     ConstitutionGardens03     ConstitutionGardens0a