Thirty-three years ago today a groundbreaking took place on a three acre plot of ground in Washington, D.C., situated between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The resulting memorial – the wall – became a cathartic and peaceful refuge for those who were touched by the war in Vietnam.
Funded entirely through private donations and designed by an undergraduate from Yale as part of a nationwide competition, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial had to fill four criteria:
1. be reflective and contemplative in character;
2. harmonize with its surroundings;
3. contain the names of those who had died in the conflict or who were still missing;
4. make no political statement about the war.
There are 58,285 names listed on the wall (as of May 2014 when thirteen more were added to the 58,272 already there). These include those killed, missing in action, and more who died later as a result of their wounds.
It is a quiet place. Somber. Respectful. For those who served in Vietnam or had loved ones who did, a visit to the wall becomes a special, sacred pilgrimage to honor those who are dead or missing, and to whisper a personal, private welcome home.