Complex In Its Simplicity

The Vietnam War ended in 1975 but it continues to be a significant, troubling and painful part of our history and stirs up a wide range of conflicting emotions within those who were around when it was being fought.

The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC was dedicated in 1982. Although I’ve lived close to DC since two years after that, today is the first day I actually visited the Memorial. I was surprised by my reaction as I stood next to the wall reading just a few of the more than 58,000 names of soldiers who died there: sadness and some tears. There is a chance I know some of those names.

The Wall is simple and black. Nothing on it or near it makes any statement about the War and the conflicting views regarding the War both then and now. It simply states the names of those who gave all because their country asked them to. The Memorial is understated, yet its placement is richly symbolic, located near the Lincoln Memorial and within sight of the Washington Monument. People walk quietly past, some taking pictures, some reading the names, some tracing names of someone they knew.

Nobody needs a Park Service sign to remind them that this is an important and respectful place.