Winters (2009) gave a brief history about the United States troops in the Vietnam War between the years 1963 and 1964. According to him, the Vietnam veterans are the soldiers who took part in the Vietnam War that occurred in Vietnam South East Asia. Winters further explained that during the war period, the United States of America sent her troops to South Vietnam to support the South Vietnamese in their fight against the Viet Cong and North Vietnam that were under the communist ruler-ship. The United States involvement in the war was to stop the spread of the communist policies from spreading to the other nations in South East Asia from North Vietnam. The U.S was also against the actions of the National Liberation Front (NLF) famously known as the Viet Cong of South Vietnam.
Winter (2004) has noted that the war led to the death of a number of the American troops that had been sent to South Vietnam with many also sustaining serious injuries that led to their death later on. This research paper endeavors to explain who the Vietnam veterans are, what Vietnam Veteran Memorial is, and other developments that have taken place since the memorial’s inception and construction. The paper is informative of the turn of events after the Vietnam War and provides useful information to people who have not visited and could be visiting the memorial for the first time. It also gives an insight about the memorial and its historical importance to not only the Vietnam veterans but also to the Americans and other historians of the world who are interested in the American history and the Vietnam War of the 1960s.
The Vietnam Veterans
According to Rosinsky, Leepson and Palmer (2006), “Vietnam veterans” refers to the various categories of the American troops who took part in the Vietnam War. It therefore includes; the United States of America troops who either lost their lives in the battlefield in Vietnam during the Vietnam war; those who suffered serious injuries during their involvement in the Vietnam War and died later on as a result of the direct effects of the injuries in America after the war; those who went missing during the war and it was never known where they went, and finally those who survived and are still living after they returned from the war safely.
The troops are to date very much celebrated in America and beyond for their wholehearted devotion and service in the fight against North Vietnam and the Viet Cong of South Vietnam who wanted to spread the spirit of Communism in the surrounding nations of South East Asia. The government went a head to establish a memorial fund kitty which later led to the formation of a non-profit national memorial park in the year 1982 all in remembrance of the veterans (Rosinsky, Leepson & Palmer, 2006).
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
According to Tamara Britton (2004), the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was established to pay tribute and honor to the troops and others who served in the Vietnam War. It is a wall with approximately over 58,000 names of the Americans who were killed or went missing in action during the Vietnam War. Britton further notes that the national memorial located in Washington, D.C is made of black granite that was imported from India. According to her, the memorial’s development and construction began with establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF). VVMF was formed as a non-profit organization under the leadership of one of the wounded veterans by the name Jan Scruggs. He received the back up from other veterans who also saw the need of coming up with a memorial particular to pay tribute to their countrymen who died in the Vietnam War.
Britton (2004) records that an approximate of not less than $7 million was collected through private means prompting the Congress also to allocate three acres of land next to the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall. The funds enabled the building of the memorial and its dedication thereafter in the year 1982 as a National Memorial. It was then listed in the National Register of Historic Places on that particular day in a ceremony attended by thousands of the Vietnam War veterans. The event was marked with a march by the survived Vietnam War veterans to the site of the memorial as a sign of solidarity and a show of the love to their fellows who were victims of the war.
Britton (2004) further reveals that besides the memorial wall, was erected a Three-Soldier statue and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. The latter had been raised to pay tribute to the United States of America women who died in service during the Vietnam War. However, of the three, the memorial wall has found great historical value in the hearts of the Americans compared to the other two. The wall receives an approximate of more than two million visitors per annum (Britton, 2004).
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
Even though, it took time for the realization of the need to honor the veterans who were killed in the service and those who were never accounted for after the end of the war, Jan Scruggs made various efforts which resulted into the setting up of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) in the year 1979. Jan Scruggs was one of the wounded Vietnam veterans. His major aim was to use the organization to search for private funds from both opponents and supporters of the war to enable them honor the war veterans. Approximately $7 million was collected through private means to support this project. The funds formed the basis on which the Congress was easily convinced to appropriate land for the establishment of the memorial (Schaefer & Schaefer, 2005).
Controversies Surrounding the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Tucker (2011) explains that besides the fact that the veterans’ memorial is a great tourist attraction for people from not only the United States but also from other parts of the world, it has been surrounded by a number of controversial issues from the time of its construction. First, the opponents have asked why a war that was not won but lost should be remembered. The second controversy surrounds the issue of the fight by the Vietnam veterans led by Jan Scruggs to have the Congress appropriate land for the establishment of the memorial. Third controversy was on the issue of the best design to be used fro the memorial which was surrounded by a controversial competition. Conflict erupted especially after Maya Lin’s Wall design, an architecture student from Yale University at the time, was declared a winner in the competition (Tucker, 2011).
Tucker (2011) noted that later on, an artistic controversy also arose when mustaches were drawn on Lin’s design which was against his will. Other artists joined Lin in a campaign against any action by the Commission of Fine Arts which would allow the replacement of his design. Another controversy was on what kind of a political statement which should appear on the wall besides a gender based controversy one which was to be inscribed in honor of the women who also died in the service.
Gifts and Other Items
Schaefer and Schaefer (2005) elaborating on the significance of the memorial, explain that the visitors to the memorial carry with themselves gifts, prizes and other items that they leave at the memorial wall. The non-perishable items are collected and have since been housed in Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection located at the National Park Service, Museum Resource Center. They however observed that flags and flowers are not collected. Schaefer and Schaefer (2005) also noted that military mementos forms the largest part of the collections in the Museum Resource Center apart from other gifts such as cans of beer, fishing poles, bicycle fenders among others.
Despite the elegance of the memorial, three rounds of vandalism, occurring at different times, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial have been reported. Tucker (2011) noted that of all the three, the latest that occurred in September, 2007 was the worst. The vandalism attracted different condemnation from the public. However, the VVMF founders gave $5000 and it was repaired (Tucker, 2011).
Despite the many controversies that surround the construction of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, it has remained as a significant historical site in America. It serves as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the war as well as presently emerging as a potential source of income to the government. It still remains as the United States’ most visited memorial attracting approximately three million visitors per year. The site has also been used by historians who require information on the history of America.