Memorial Day - Remembering and Forgetting
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I have visited the
As you enter the southwest end of the memorial you first come upon bronze statues of three U.S. servicemen. Atypical of many other memorials commemorating war, these soldiers look dazed and weary as their eyes look forlornly towards the main memorial. Following their gaze, you walk towards a "V" shaped trench gouged out of the earth, reminiscent of the trenches that are all too often the homes of soldiers in battle. As you enter the trench, you are exposed to the names of the first U.S. military deaths of that war, dated 1959, carved into cold black rock. As you move forward the trench gets deeper, the slabs of stone get higher and the listings of fatalities grow longer. As you near the point of numbness, having been exposed to tens of thousands of names, each a cold mark in stone of a live once lived, you reach the deepest part of the trench, marking the darkest years of the war. Looking up ahead, you see the names of tens of thousands more. By the time you exit the trench, emotionally drained, you have walked past the names of
Of course, like most memorials, the site tells only part of the story. While it provides a powerful memorial to the U.S. veterans that lost their lives, they were but a small fraction of the total deaths caused by that atrocity. The toll of Vietnamese fatalities, both military and civilian, was far greater and would require another 20, 30 or even 40 more trenches to commemorate. Using conservative estimates we find that over 440,000 Vietnamese servicemen died on both sides of that conflagration along with
In addition to the costs in human lives there were the financial costs. At least
As strongly as
Photos of soldiers at the entrance the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Women's Memorial, and names of deceased U.S. Vietnam war vets by Andrew Lesko, with modifications.