College Papers/Vietnam Memorial college paper 14412

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At the age of twenty one, a female undergraduate at Yale University

named Maya Lin submitted her design for the Vietnam Memorial. Her idea

for the memorial was extremely unique and controversial. After long

discussions by a panel, it was chosen for construction. The design

that she submitted was one that was very different in comparison to

other memorials, and it was one that has a tendency to leave a lot of

questions on the minds of the visitors. On the face of the memorial

there is a list of all those who died or are missing in the order by

which they were lost. It could seem to some one who did not

understand the incident that the monument honors only those lost, but

that is incorrect. Maya Lin¹s design formed into the most unique

memorial structure of its kind, which honors all who served in the

Vietnam War (Colliers 23: 137).

The official name given to the monument was the Vietnam Veterans

memorial. In this name alone it is clear that it was not erected for

the sole purpose of honoring only those who were lost in the conflict.

The term KIA was the abbreviation used for those people who were

killed in action, and these people represent 47,000 of the 58,000

names on the wall. The other 11,000 were soldiers who died from

crashes, snake bites, illnesses, and other non-combat related deaths

(Olson 227). There is no distinction made between the two groups on

the monument. The structure is a v-shaped polished granite slab that

unlike other monuments has no message of honor or patriotism. All of

those subjects are left to the thoughts of the beholder. People often

find therapy in locating the name of a companion or a loved one. The

Vietnam Veterans Memorial is by far the most emotional moving war

monument in Washington, and that alone makes it very unique(Collier¹s


In comparison with other monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is

vastly different. A point of comparison could be the Marine Corps War

Memorial, otherwise known as the Iwo Jima monument. This monument is a

sculpture of three soldiers risking their lives to keep the American

flag flying. The structure has a deep sense of understood patriotism

and there is a great deal of honor that is also associated with it.

Unlike the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima monument is a

tribute only to the Marines who served in World War Two. The Vietnam

Veterans Memorial has no such

message of honor and courage, but rather an atmosphere that causes

visitors to reflect on the conflict (Colliers 138-139).

The only monument that is similar the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is

the memorial to Ulysses S. Grant. It is located at the foot of the

capital and has no clear cut meaning. There is no political message

that can be taken away from Grant¹s memorial. It neither glorifies war

nor possesses an antiwar message, and there is no moral lesson that

can be taken away from this monument (Colliers 138). One of the great

things about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is that it allows the

public to form its own opinion of the conflict with out forcing a

political message. It is because of this ambiguity that the monument

is so unique.

Unlike other monuments, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial can not be seen

from a distance. One must commit to see it, and then walk down to it.

This is just the opposite of other monuments such as the Lincoln

Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial which were created to show the men

on a higher God-like platform. Also, it is not at all uncommon to find

men and women alike weeping at the base of the monument (Colliers

138-139) Cynics could argue and say they morn only for their loved

ones, and were not moved by the power of the monument, but this is not

always the case. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is an experience that

affects thousands of people daily, and changes the lives of almost as

many. This is a characteristic that no other war monument in the

country seems to posses.

The first inscription on the wall reads ³IN HONOR OF THE MEN AND




The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is also unique in the sense that is

honors all who fought, as most monuments honor only those who died.

>From this one could imply that the veterans were not sufficiently

honored by the people of America. (Colliers 139-140)

It is clear that the erection of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was a

wonderful addition to the Washington Mall of monuments. There is some

disagreement as to the exact meaning of the monument, but that is

because in was designed for that very purpose. Maya Lin was quoted to

say that she wanted a ³quiet place, meant for personal reflection and

private reckoning² (Colliers 139) That was exactly what she gave to

the country in her unique interpretation of what the monument should



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