Walking at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is quite an experience. From an artistic perspective, the architecture is spellbinding. It displays a myriad of styles that reflect trends across generations and centuries. From a historical perspective, the monuments and buildings pay homage to critical junctures in U.S. history.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is arguably the single memorial that evokes the strongest emotions of sadness, pain, and longing. The wall rises from the ground as the sidewalk slopes down. As you walk on the sidewalk, the wall grows taller and taller. You see tiny writing on the wall and you notice that the writing are the names to so so so many veterans. They memorialize the 58,307 U.S. soldiers who died in service in the Vietnam War from 1957-1975.
With so many soldiers lost, the network of people who felt this loss multiplied exponentially, and across generations. On the morning that this photograph was taken, a young woman taking a jog on the Mall stopped at a specific spot at the Wall, and ran her fingers over one specific name, then bowed her head and closed her eyes for several minutes. She could not have been old enough to have known the soldier whose name she was touching, but the vastness of the loss and the stories that families tell obviously touched her.
The two men pictured in this photo stood at this spot on the Wall for close to half an hour. They talked about the group of soldiers, whose names were etched on the wall in front of them. One was old enough to have experienced loss during the height of the War. The other was likely born after direct U.S military involvement ended. Though, again, the loss of the war affected people across generations. The younger man stood with the older man talking about those who had lost their lives. They had brought flowers and stood solemnly mourning more than 40 years after the end of the war.
The devastation of war, and the power of art and architecture. Both come together at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial so that we will not forget.