Nov 14, 2010

Remembering our Veterans

The National Mall is Washington is one of the best places to honor veterans of several wars. The Mall is the site of memorials to American men and women who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. A smaller memorial honors soldiers from the District of Columbia who served in World War I. The three newer war memorials are located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1982 to honor all the U.S. service people of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War and in South East Asia, and those who went missing in action during the war. The memorial has three separate parts. The best-known is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, designed by Maya Lin, and made of two walls etched with the 58,267 names of the fallen soldiers in chronological order – with a few exceptions.

Also part of the memorial is The Three Soldiers statue. The statue was unveiled in 1984, two years after The Wall's completion. The three men are wearing Vietnam War era uniforms that could be from any branch of service and are carrying infantry weapons. Nearby is the third component – the Vietnam Women’s Memorial dedicated to American women who served in Vietnam, most of whom were nurses. The statue depicts three service women. The one looking up is called Hope, the one tending to the wounded soldier is called Charity and the one behind Charity is praying. She is called Faith.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1995 on the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war. Korean veterans always relate is how cold they were. Part of the memorial depicts a squad of soldiers on patrol. Even on a hot day they look cold coming through the scrubby trees in their windblown ponchos. The patrol has members of the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Another part of the memorial is a polished black granite wall that reflects the images of the patrol. A low granite ring lists the 22 countries of the United Nations that sent troops to South Korea. Numbers of those killed, wounded, missing in action, and held prisoner-of-war are etched in stone nearby. Opposite this counting of the war's toll another granite wall bears a message inlaid in silver: “Freedom Is Not Free.”

The newest war memorial, the massive World War II Memorial, was dedicated in 2004 to honor the 16 million who served in the armed forces during the war, the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. The Memorial has two 43-foot arches, representing the war's Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Fifty-six pillars represent the states, territories and the District of Columbia at the time of the war. Each of the 4,000 gold stars on a memorial wall represents 100 U.S. deaths in the war. The Circle of Remembrance Garden is enclosed by a two-foot high stone wall creating a place for people to remember all veterans.

A fourth memorial, dedicated in 1931, is the District of Columbia War Memorial inscribed with the names of 449 local citizens who lost their life during World War I. The memorials are very different in design but each is a poignant reminder of the sacrifice made my American servicemen and women.