Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A place to remember, reconcile and learn

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.


By STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 11, 2014

Architect Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was, in the beginning, almost as divisive as the conflict whose casualties it was to honor.

Vietnam veteran Jim Webb, who would later become Secretary of the Navy and then a U.S. senator, said in a 1983 Stars and Stripes interview that it reminded many veterans of the peace sign flashed by antiwar protesters. "A lot of veterans," he said, "call it 'Jane Fonda's Wall.'"

John McCain, a former prisoner of war who would also serve in the Senate and be chosen as the 2008 Republican nominee for president, was also skeptical at first. But he, like many others, eventually saw what Lin was trying to accomplish.

"My first impressions of the Wall, honestly, were that it was too funereal," McCain said in a 2008 interview. "In other words, it was too bleak.

"And then one morning, I went (to the Wall), and I saw two guys standing there, Viet vets, and one of them said 'where were you?' And he said 'I was at Chu Lai.' And (the other) said 'I was at Chu Lai.' 'Really?' And within about two minutes they were embracing and crying. That convinced me that the Vietnam war memorial was everything that we had hoped it would be ... a place of reconciliation."

It is still a place of reconciliation, as well of healing, remembering and, in the case of younger visitors, learning about the war that cost over 57,000 American lives.

Here are some photos from recent years of visitors to the Wall.