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Essay/Term paper: Vietnam memorial

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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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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